“I am optimistic that this will feel very different and better by the spring.” The Prime Minister’s statement. Full text.

31 Oct

“Thank you very much Patrick, and Chris. I am afraid that no responsible PM can ignore the message of those figures.

When I told you two weeks ago that we were pursuing a local and a regional approach to tackling this virus, I believed then and I still believe passionately that it was the right thing to do.

Because we know the cost of these restrictions, the damage they do, the impact on jobs, and on livelihoods, and on people’s mental health.

No one wants to be imposing these kinds of measures anywhere.

We didn’t want to be shutting businesses, pubs and restaurants in one part of the country, where incidence was very low, when the vast bulk of infections were taking place elsewhere.

Our hope was that by strong local action, strong local leadership, we could get the rates of infection down where the disease was surging, and address the problem thereby across the whole country.

And I want to thank the millions of people who have been putting up with these restrictions in their areas for so long. I want to thank local leaders who have stepped up and local communities.

Because as you can see from some of those charts, the R has been kept lower than it would otherwise have been, and there are signs that your work has been paying off.

And we will continue as far as we possibly can to adopt a pragmatic and local approach in the months ahead.

But as we’ve also seen from those charts, we’ve got to be humble in the face of nature.

And in this country alas as across much of Europe the virus is spreading even faster than the reasonable worst case scenario of our scientific advisers.

Whose models as you’ve just seen now suggest that unless we act we could see deaths in this country running at several thousand a day.

A peak of mortality alas far bigger than the one we saw in April.

Even in the South West, where incidence was so low, and still is so low, it is now clear that current projections mean they will run out of hospital capacity in a matter of weeks unless we act.

And let me explain why the overrunning of the NHS would be a medical and moral disaster beyond the raw loss of life.

Because the huge exponential growth in the number of patients – by no means all of them elderly, by the way – would mean that doctors and nurses would be forced to choose which patients to treat.

Who would get oxygen and who wouldn’t.

Who would live and who would die.

And doctors and nurses would be forced to choose between saving covid patients and non-covid patients.

And the sheer weight of covid demand would mean depriving tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of non-covid patients of the care they need.

It is crucial to grasp this that the general threat to public health comes not from focusing too much on covid, but from not focusing enough, from failing to get it under control.

And if we let the lines on those graphs grow in the way they could and in the way they’re projected to grow, then the risk is that for the first time in our lives, the NHS will not be there for us and for our families.

And even if I could now double capacity overnight – and obviously I am proud that we have massively increased capacity, we do have the Nightingales, we’ve got 13,000 more nurses now than last year, we have many more doctors – but it still would not be enough, because the virus is doubling faster than we could conceivably add capacity.

And so now is the time to take action because there is no alternative.From Thursday until the start of December, you must stay at home.

You may only leave home for specific reasons, including:

  • For education;
  • For work, say if you cannot work from home;
  • For exercise and recreation outdoors, with your household or on your own with one person from another household;
  • For medical reasons, appointments and to escape injury or harm;
  • To shop for food and essentials;
  • And to provide care for vulnerable people, or as a volunteer.

I’m afraid non-essential shops, leisure and entertainment venues will all be closed – though click and collect services can continue and essential shops will remain open, so there is no need to stock up.

Pubs, bars, restaurants must close except for takeaway and delivery services.

Workplaces should stay open where people can’t work from home – for example in the construction or manufacturing sectors.

Single adult households can still form exclusive support bubbles with one other household, and children will still be able to move between homes if their parents are separated.

If you are clinically vulnerable, or over the age of 60, you should be especially careful to follow the rules and minimise your contacts with others.

I know how tough shielding was, and we will not ask people to shield again in the same way again. However we are asking those who are clinically extremely vulnerable to minimise their contact with others, and not to go to work if they are unable to work from home.

I am under no illusions about how difficult this will be for businesses which have already had to endure hardship this year. I am truly, truly sorry for that.

This is why we are also going to extend the furlough system through November. The furlough scheme was a success in the spring. It supported people and businesses in a critical time. We will not end it. We will extend it until December.

There will be some differences compared to March.

These measures above all will be time-limited, starting next Thursday 5 November. They will end on Wednesday 2 December, when we will seek to ease restrictions, going back into the tiered system on a local and regional basis according to the latest data and trends.

Christmas is going to be different this year, very different, but it is my sincere hope and belief that by taking tough action now, we can allow families across the country to be together.

My priority, our priority, remains keeping people in education – so childcare, early years settings, schools, colleges and universities will all remain open. Our senior clinicians still advise that school is the best place for children to be.

We cannot let this virus damage our children’s futures even more than it has already. I urge parents to continue taking their children to school and I am extremely grateful to teachers across the country for their dedication in enabling schools to remain open.

And it is vital that we will keep provision for non-Covid healthcare groups going.

So please – this is really important – unless your clinicians tell you otherwise, you should continue to use the NHS, get your scans, turn up for your appointments and pick up your treatments. If at all possible, we want you to continue to access these services, now and through the winter. Indeed it’s only by taking this action that we can protect the NHS for you.

On Monday, I will set out our plans to Parliament.

On Wednesday, Parliament will debate and vote on these measures which, if passed, will as I say come into force on Thursday.

We have updated the devolved administrations on the action we are taking in England and stand ready to work with them on plans for Christmas and beyond.

We should remember we are not alone in what we’re going through. Our friends in Belgium, France and Germany have had to take very similar action.

So as we come together now to fight this second wave, I want to say something about the way ahead.

Because people will reasonably ask when will this all end.

And as I have said before I am optimistic that this will feel very different and better by the spring.

It is not just that we have ever better medicine and therapies, and the realistic hope of a vaccine in the first quarter of next year.

We now have the immediate prospect of using many millions of cheap, reliable and above all rapid turnaround tests.

Tests that you can use yourself to tell whether or not you are infectious and get the result within ten to 15 minutes

And we know from trial across the country in schools and hospitals that we can use these tests not just to locate infectious people but to drive down the disease.

And so over the next few days and weeks, we plan a steady but massive expansion in the deployment of these quick turnaround tests.

Applying them in an ever-growing number of situations.

From helping women to have their partners with them in labour wards when they’re giving birth to testing whole towns and even whole cities.

The army has been brought in to work on the logistics and the programme will begin in a matter of days.

Working with local communities, local government, public health directors and organisations of all kinds to help people discover whether or not they are infectious, and then immediately to get them to self-isolate and to stop the spread

And I can tell you tonight that the scientists may be unanimously gloomy about the immediate options.

But they are unanimously optimistic about the medium and the long term future.

We will get through this – but we must act now to contain this autumn surge.

We are not going back to the full-scale lockdown of March and April.

It is less prohibitive and less restrictive.

But from Thursday the basic message is the same

Stay at home. Protect the NHS. And save lives.

Christopher Fraser: Brexit gives us a huge opportunity for agricultural innovation

31 Oct

Christopher Fraser is the Independent Chairman of the Crop Protection Association. He is a former Conservative MP for South West Norfolk.

The most important international agreements often go to the wire. With little more than two months remaining until the Brexit transition period ends, we are approaching the endgame of our negotiations with the EU and there is so much which remains unknown.

What we do know however, is that regulatory power over agriculture is about to return to the UK; a seismic change for which the sector is already preparing. Deal or no deal, we will see checks and extra costs for agri-food. Nonetheless, in the long-term, this is an enormous moment of opportunity for our food and farming sector – an opportunity for a genuine post-Brexit dividend and a chance for the Government to remove us from a bureaucratic framework which has turned Europe, over recent decades into a “museum” of agriculture.

As a result of the EU’s approach, the UK has needlessly been left behind when it comes to the scientific and technological advances being enjoyed elsewhere in the world, including around innovation in plant protection products. Whatever happens after 31st December, I look forward to our Government using the powers returned from Brussels to allow the industry to modernise and return to the global mainstream of agri-tech, where it so clearly belongs. It is time for the UK to move away from Europe’s approach to the regulation of plant protection products and move to wider agri-tech innovation which is many years overdue.

In other countries, outside the EU, ones with sensible evidence-based approaches to regulation, like Canada, agri-tech advances are already benefitting food production and the environment. Why would we not want to take that advantage? Our crops face overwhelming pressure from weeds, pests, and diseases, at the same time, human demographics are changing and populations are growing. This means ever greater demands on farmers to produce more food, whilst taking vital steps to protect biodiversity and minimise carbon emissions. If we are to support our farmers in doing what is unarguably an increasingly tough job, while still sparing more land for biodiversity and carbon sequestration, they need access to every tool in the box to provide high-quality, safe and affordable food. Our farmers deserve access to those same tools enjoyed by those they are competing within the global marketplace.

Agricultural innovation already helps to ensure our farming sector is productive, resilient and sustainable. At the moment, the UK is hemmed in by the EU’s “overly politicised” approach, which is at odds with the careful, science-based risk assessment model in operation elsewhere in the world resulting in our sector not reaching its potential. Post-Brexit, we have an opportunity to do things differently and demonstrate progressive and enlightened leadership in promoting modern, productive, sustainable farming.

From the 1st January 2021, there is an exciting opportunity for growth and inward investment in agri-tech research and development, which can help the UK to play a leading role in feeding ourselves and the world. The Government’s commitment to consult this autumn on the future regulation of gene-editing techniques is a welcome signal that it is serious about “liberating the UK’s extraordinary bioscience sector,” as pledged by the Prime Minister in Downing Street in July 2019.

We are at a turning point and we need to maintain momentum. For farmers and the rural economy, the benefits are obvious at a time when our economy is experiencing serious upheaval. With the aftermath of the current pandemic likely to permeate for a long time, we welcome support for sectors like ours that have huge potential for growth. This is an exciting journey that we are on and our world-class universities and strong science base provides us with a significant competitive advantage in agri-tech, one that has capacity for future expansion. In a post-Brexit world, there is a genuine opportunity to attract a greater share of global inward investment. Our Crop Protection Association (CPA) membership currently spends a significant portion of their income on R&D in the UK. Adopting a more proportionate and science-based regulatory approach to everything from digital solutions, new breeding techniques and plant protection could position the United Kingdom as a prime location, able to attract a larger proportion of this global funding for new business opportunities.

There is a strong economic case for enabling a UK specific approach. A report by the economist, Séan Rickard, estimates that without the use of plant protection products, the average family grocery bill could rise by more than £786 over the course of a year. Rickard found that not having these technologies would disproportionately impact lower income households, with fresh fruit and vegetables seeing the largest price increases, projected to rise by around 40 per cent. We have a unique opportunity to improve access to these technologies and to lead the way in agricultural science and innovation – and by extension to respond to some of the pressures on household budgets.

The question that keeps getting asked is about safety and standards. The key is that when plant protection products are used safely, rigorously tested and thoroughly scrutinised by independent scientific experts, there is assurance of safety for those applying the product, for the environment and the customer. A domestic regime could go further and build on the strengths of existing regulation, retaining the current high standards of protection for human health and the environment, whilst providing greater opportunities for collaboration, faster decision making, greater variety for farmers and huge benefits for customers in terms of price and quality.

The reality is that we can enjoy the agricultural and economic benefits of agri-tech innovations without reducing standards or compromising safety if we make the right policy decisions. Already, innovative products and technologies help farmers grow healthy crops, by protecting our food supply against the pests, weeds and diseases that would otherwise cause us to lose a considerable amount of our food. With a UK-specific approach, the potential for UK farming to thrive is immense.

The plant science industry recognises the need to improve the environmental, social, and economic sustainability of our food systems. The CPA, under the stewardship of our new CEO, Dave Bench, and with our dynamic team and membership, are keen to play our part, working with the Government to advance policies that protect the environment whilst also supporting productivity and food security. These aims are not mutually exclusive – and with two months to go, they should be at the forefront of all our minds.

 

Christopher Fraser: Brexit gives us a huge opportunity for agricultural innovation

31 Oct

Christopher Fraser is the Independent Chairman of the Crop Protection Association. He is a former Conservative MP for South West Norfolk.

The most important international agreements often go to the wire. With little more than two months remaining until the Brexit transition period ends, we are approaching the endgame of our negotiations with the EU and there is so much which remains unknown.

What we do know however, is that regulatory power over agriculture is about to return to the UK; a seismic change for which the sector is already preparing. Deal or no deal, we will see checks and extra costs for agri-food. Nonetheless, in the long-term, this is an enormous moment of opportunity for our food and farming sector – an opportunity for a genuine post-Brexit dividend and a chance for the Government to remove us from a bureaucratic framework which has turned Europe, over recent decades into a “museum” of agriculture.

As a result of the EU’s approach, the UK has needlessly been left behind when it comes to the scientific and technological advances being enjoyed elsewhere in the world, including around innovation in plant protection products. Whatever happens after 31st December, I look forward to our Government using the powers returned from Brussels to allow the industry to modernise and return to the global mainstream of agri-tech, where it so clearly belongs. It is time for the UK to move away from Europe’s approach to the regulation of plant protection products and move to wider agri-tech innovation which is many years overdue.

In other countries, outside the EU, ones with sensible evidence-based approaches to regulation, like Canada, agri-tech advances are already benefitting food production and the environment. Why would we not want to take that advantage? Our crops face overwhelming pressure from weeds, pests, and diseases, at the same time, human demographics are changing and populations are growing. This means ever greater demands on farmers to produce more food, whilst taking vital steps to protect biodiversity and minimise carbon emissions. If we are to support our farmers in doing what is unarguably an increasingly tough job, while still sparing more land for biodiversity and carbon sequestration, they need access to every tool in the box to provide high-quality, safe and affordable food. Our farmers deserve access to those same tools enjoyed by those they are competing within the global marketplace.

Agricultural innovation already helps to ensure our farming sector is productive, resilient and sustainable. At the moment, the UK is hemmed in by the EU’s “overly politicised” approach, which is at odds with the careful, science-based risk assessment model in operation elsewhere in the world resulting in our sector not reaching its potential. Post-Brexit, we have an opportunity to do things differently and demonstrate progressive and enlightened leadership in promoting modern, productive, sustainable farming.

From the 1st January 2021, there is an exciting opportunity for growth and inward investment in agri-tech research and development, which can help the UK to play a leading role in feeding ourselves and the world. The Government’s commitment to consult this autumn on the future regulation of gene-editing techniques is a welcome signal that it is serious about “liberating the UK’s extraordinary bioscience sector,” as pledged by the Prime Minister in Downing Street in July 2019.

We are at a turning point and we need to maintain momentum. For farmers and the rural economy, the benefits are obvious at a time when our economy is experiencing serious upheaval. With the aftermath of the current pandemic likely to permeate for a long time, we welcome support for sectors like ours that have huge potential for growth. This is an exciting journey that we are on and our world-class universities and strong science base provides us with a significant competitive advantage in agri-tech, one that has capacity for future expansion. In a post-Brexit world, there is a genuine opportunity to attract a greater share of global inward investment. Our Crop Protection Association (CPA) membership currently spends a significant portion of their income on R&D in the UK. Adopting a more proportionate and science-based regulatory approach to everything from digital solutions, new breeding techniques and plant protection could position the United Kingdom as a prime location, able to attract a larger proportion of this global funding for new business opportunities.

There is a strong economic case for enabling a UK specific approach. A report by the economist, Séan Rickard, estimates that without the use of plant protection products, the average family grocery bill could rise by more than £786 over the course of a year. Rickard found that not having these technologies would disproportionately impact lower income households, with fresh fruit and vegetables seeing the largest price increases, projected to rise by around 40 per cent. We have a unique opportunity to improve access to these technologies and to lead the way in agricultural science and innovation – and by extension to respond to some of the pressures on household budgets.

The question that keeps getting asked is about safety and standards. The key is that when plant protection products are used safely, rigorously tested and thoroughly scrutinised by independent scientific experts, there is assurance of safety for those applying the product, for the environment and the customer. A domestic regime could go further and build on the strengths of existing regulation, retaining the current high standards of protection for human health and the environment, whilst providing greater opportunities for collaboration, faster decision making, greater variety for farmers and huge benefits for customers in terms of price and quality.

The reality is that we can enjoy the agricultural and economic benefits of agri-tech innovations without reducing standards or compromising safety if we make the right policy decisions. Already, innovative products and technologies help farmers grow healthy crops, by protecting our food supply against the pests, weeds and diseases that would otherwise cause us to lose a considerable amount of our food. With a UK-specific approach, the potential for UK farming to thrive is immense.

The plant science industry recognises the need to improve the environmental, social, and economic sustainability of our food systems. The CPA, under the stewardship of our new CEO, Dave Bench, and with our dynamic team and membership, are keen to play our part, working with the Government to advance policies that protect the environment whilst also supporting productivity and food security. These aims are not mutually exclusive – and with two months to go, they should be at the forefront of all our minds.

 

Newslinks for Saturday 31st October 2020

31 Oct

Coronavirus 1) National lockdown “under consideration”

“Boris Johnson is considering the imposition of new national lockdown restrictions from next week amid concerns that hospitals across the country are being overwhelmed. The prime minister met Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, and Matt Hancock, the health secretary, to discuss “alarming” new NHS data yesterday. He is expected to hold a press conference on Monday to announce the new measures, under which everything could be closed except essential shops and “educational settings”, including nurseries, schools and universities. The new restrictions could be introduced on Wednesday and remain in place until December 1.” – The Times

  • Pubs and restaurants face being shut for weeks – The Sun
  • Royal Family banned from singing national anthem at Remembrance Day – Daily Express
  • It could “destroy hospitality and the high street” – Daily Telegraph
  • Deaths could peak just before Christmas – The Times
  • Data exceed ‘worst-case’ scenario – Financial Times
  • Mayhem as thousands flee Paris – The Times
  • Welsh minister’s business loan claim nonsense, says Treasury – BBC
  • Almost three in four people are more concerned about the impact of lockdown restrictions than catching coronavirus – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Nick Fletcher on Comment: Ministers must do more to strike the right balance between health and happiness

Coronavirus 2) R rate falls, but is still above 1

“The UK’s coronavirus R rate has dropped for the second week in a row – but remains above 1 across the country, it emerged today. The current R value – the number of people an infected person will pass Covid-19 on to – is now estimated to be between 1.1 and 1.3. The estimate from Sage is lower than the R rate prediction from Imperial College London scientists, who yesterday published the latest data from their REACT study. Their findings – based on tests from 85,000 people – suggest the UK’s R rate is 1.6, with most of the South nearing 2, while London is almost at 3.” – The Sun

  • Covid cases are not spiralling out of control, says King’s College – Daily Telegraph
  • Glimmer of hope as infections in hotpots fall – Daily Mail

Coronavirus 3) Alternative plan would be Tier 4 restrictions

“Johnson is likely to summon ministers from his Cabinet coronavirus subcommittee over the next 48 hours and could hold a full meeting on Sunday if he decides he needs to act as soon as Monday. The alternative to a national lockdown would be a fourth tier of restrictions on top of the existing three tier system, but government scientists now believe even Tier 3 is not enough to stop the spread of infections…Discussions are ongoing about whether the harsher restrictions would be referred to as Tier 4 or Tier 3 plus.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Ministers threw fortunes at protective clothing – much of which was overpriced or can never be used – Daily Mail
  • We must keep our heads and accept Covid is here for the long term – Camilla Cavendish, Financial Times
  • Three facts No 10’s experts got wrong – Dr Mike Yeadon, Daily Mail
  • A second national lockdown would be catastrophic – Leader, The Sun
  • A contagion of hatred and hysteria – Professor Sunetra Gupta, Daily Mail
  • UK should follow European neighbours’ lockdown approach – Leader, Financial Times

PM and Chancellor clash over defence spending

“Boris Johnson has told Rishi Sunak that he wants a £15 billion multi-year settlement for defence in a clash over the scale of spending to strengthen Britain’s place on the world stage after Brexit. The prime minister met the chancellor on Tuesday to discuss the issue and has demanded he guarantee defence spending until 2025 to underpin a defence and security review. Mr Sunak wants a one-year settlement for defence worth £1.9 billion as part of the spending review.” – The Times

Johnson and Symonds in joint TV appearance to praise NHS

“Boris Johnson and his fiancée Carrie Symonds will praise NHS medics for delivering their son Wilfred and for saving the Prime Minister’s life as he fought coronavirus. In their first joint television appearance, a recording for the Pride of Britain awards, they will thank frontline workers for their ‘courage and dedication’ during the pandemic in a broadcast on Sunday. The couple nominated nurses Jenny McGee and Luis Pitarma, two nurses who cared for Mr Johnson at St Thomas’ Hospital in April, and the maternity team who delivered Wilfred later the same month. Ms Symonds’ £30,000 emerald engagement ring matches her green dress in the broadcast filmed at Chequers earlier this week.” – Daily Mail

Jenrick pledges to protect women’s lavatories

“Ministers will today unveil plans to boost the number of female-only toilets to protect women from the surge in mixed-sex bogs. Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick will launch a review to guarantee all publicly accessible toilets have female-only cubicles to prevent women having to queue ages for the loo. Evidence shows increasing numbers of publicly accessible toilets are being converted into ‘gender neutral facilities’ – causing problems for women and the elderly in particular.” – The Sun

Labour 1) Corbynite MPs “may resign the Whip”

“Labour MPs who support Jeremy Corbyn have discussed resigning from the parliamentary party and sitting as independents amid fears that Keir Starmer could lead a “mass purge” of the left, an ally of the former leader has warned. As senior party figures called for calm following Labour’s suspension of Corbyn on Thursday for saying the party’s antisemitism problem had been overstated, Ian Lavery said there are fears that the move was a “war cry” that could force some MPs to leave. Lavery, who chaired the party for three years until April, told the Guardian that many of Corbyn’s supporters, including MPs, fear the suspension is the beginning of a significant change in direction under Starmer.” – The Guardian

  • Corbyn builds up war chest for legal fight – The Times
  • A career in tatters but his influence endures – Rosa Prince, Daily Telegraph
  • Starmer told to show ‘backbone’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Labour takes five point poll lead – Daily Mail
  • McCluskey calls on members to stay in the Party – BBC

Labour 2) Duncan Smith: We have seen all this before

“I know it’s difficult if not impossible for anyone under the age of 50 to summon up any recollection of Militant, the precursor to Corbyn’s Momentum, but I have vivid personal recollections of their behaviour when I stood in 1987 in Bradford West. Pat Wall, a member of Militant and eventually one of three members of the group to be elected as Labour MPs, was standing in the neighbouring constituency of Bradford North. The election, as a result, was angry and confrontational. We had meetings disrupted as Militant activists spilled over into the seat I was contesting and the campaign culminated with a death threat.” – Iain Duncan Smith, Daily Telegraph

  • Wilderness awaits the splitters – Jack Straw, Daily Mail
  • Starmer richly deserves the trouble ahead – Juliet Samuel, Daily Telegraph
  • The response to the EHRC report shows infighting never stopped – Sienna Rodgers, The Guardian
  • This must turn into a Clause 4 moment – Leader, Daily Telegraph

Record number of early votes in US election

“Never in recent history have two presidential candidates campaigned for such a low proportion of votes in the closing days of a US election: 85 million early ballots have already been cast amid fears about the pandemic and the reliability of the postal service. Supporters of both President Trump and Joe Biden claim that the stampede to vote, which represents more than 60 per cent of the entire 2016 turnout of 136 million ballots, will benefit them. The total number of votes is expected to be higher this time.” – The Times

  • President “will expand its travel ban if re-elected” – Daily Telegraph
  • Rival criss cross midwestern states – BBC
  • Latin America fears tougher treatment under Biden – Financial Times
  • Trump has scored some foreign policy successes. But Biden is better suited to provide the leadership the free world needs – Leader, The Times
  • God help America – Henry Deedes, Daily Mail
  • Biden’s too old to be President, says his cousin in Surrey – The Times
  • Trump rally is like a Christmas panto – The Times

>Today: ToryDiary: Our survey: more than half of Tory members want Trump to win next week

SNP split over independence strategy

“An SNP MP has reacted angrily after his bid to introduce a “Plan B” strategy for securing independence was effectively blocked by his own party. Together with Inverclyde councillor Chris McEleny, Western Isles MP MP Angus MacNeil want the manifesto for next year’s Holyrood elections to include a pledge that a pro-independence majority would be taken as a mandate to start negotiations with Westminster for Scotland to leave the UK – effectively turning the election in a de facto referendum. The SNP’s annual conference in June was cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic – but with a virtual conference scheduled for the of next month, the pair were hoping to win support for the idea there.” – Daily Express

Parris: Britain has lost faith in its leaders

“Western attempts to contain this virus look like playing darts in the dark. We can’t see where we’re going, and know it, and for our leaders and some expert advisers to pretend otherwise invites contempt. If there’s any truth in the observation that electorates are growing tired, then it is the sweeping statements and cocksure reprimands we’re growing tired of. The most an honest prime minister or health secretary should say is: “Bear with us: this is a mess but we’re doing our best.” – Matthew Parris, The Times

Moore: We have a values war with China

“The struggle between the CCP and the West has been well characterised by the China expert, Charles Parton, as a “Values War”. President Xi goes on about “socialist core values”, all of them monolithically anti-democratic. We should counter these values with ours. The problem seems to be, however, that we don’t really know any more what our values might be. We remain wedded to the idea of democracy but, especially in Britain and America, see it merely as a forum in which contesting parties must give no quarter…. All the main democracies in the West look unhappy as they wrestle honourably, but not very competently, to balance our desire to live in freedom with the danger that, by doing so, we might cause others to die. Coronavirus could have been specifically designed to help the CCP’s aim of global dominance by 2050.” – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph

News in brief

  • Is the UK heading for a second national lockdown? – Katy Balls, The Spectator
  • Why has the world abandoned France in its hour of need? – Anne-Elisabeth Moutet, CapX
  • The conservative case for Joe Biden – James Bickerton, The Article
  • Attack on press freedom is led by journalists themselves – Donald Forbes, Conservative Woman
  • Letter to the BBC – John Redwood

Our survey: more than half of Tory members want Trump to win next week

31 Oct

Donald Trump is, to say the very least, a break from convention. Just as he has attempted to remake America’s position overseas – and indeed done so by dint merely of being elected – he is also a very different sort of Republican to those that typified the post-Reagan era.

Yet for all that, our latest survey shows that more than 50 per cent of grassroots Conservatives are hoping for him to come out on top and win a second term as President. Fewer than one in four are holding out for Joe Biden, the Democratic challenger.

There are several possible explanations for this. One is the perception that a Trump White House will be better for the United Kingdom during its first few years outside the European Union. But it could simply be that the Conservatives and Republicans are sister parties and activists, for all Biden’s personal moderation, simply remain deeply wary of the Left and the influence that the wider Democratic Party could wield through him.

From Disraeli to Johnson, the Left has never understood the Right, and Fawcett shows us why

31 Oct

Conservatism: The Fight for a Tradition by Edmund Fawcett

Edmund Fawcett, “a left-wing liberal” (his term), here performs, with grace, acuity and good humour, a signal service for conservatives. He introduces us to each other.

Reading his book is like being at a vast family party, where as one glances round the marquee one is struck by the affinities between people who have never met, but have much in common.

Here one encounters cousins of whom one may, perhaps, have heard, but about whom one knows next to nothing.

In one of the most delightful parts of his book, published as Appendix C, Fawcett in under 40 pages gives us brief lives of over 200 conservative politicians and thinkers, drawn from Britain, France, Germany and the United States, all of whom have attained some degree of eminence since the French Revolution.

This brevity is wonderful. It is not difficult to find a long book about any of these people. To find a dozen lines that are worth reading can be almost impossible.

And conservatism is itself an almost impossible subject. As Fawcett remarks in his preface, “A chaos of voices has often made it hard to say what, if anything, conservatives stand for.”

He notes a paradox:

“Puzzling as it sounds, conservatives have largely created and learned to dominate a liberal modern world in which they cannot feel at home.”

He remarks that he is not writing solely or even primarily for the benefit of conservatives:

“Readers on the Left will get a view of their opponent’s position, which they are prone, like rash chess players, to ignore.”

And he adds a pointed question for his companions on the Left:

“if we’re so smart, how come we’re not in charge?”

Part of the answer to that question is that the Left often fails to take the Right seriously. Moral condemnation forestalls understanding.

Another part of the answer is that the Right does take the Left seriously, is indeed terrified of the damage it can do. Fawcett begins with two conservative opponents of the French Revolution, Edmund Burke and Joseph de Maistre.

Burke is for British and American conservatives a marvellous source of wisdom, endlessly invigorating and enjoyable. Few of us have ever felt at ease with Maistre’s savagery, but Fawcett insists that although “Maistre was never going to sit well in conservatism’s front parlour”, he “belongs in the household as much as Burke”.

We are happier to be told that Friedrich von Gentz (1764-1832), a Prussian who studied under Kant, worked for the Austrians and took a retainer from the British, translated Burke’s Reflections on the French Revolution into German, “teasing out Burke’s thought in long footnotes that tidied up the argument in rationalist spirit”.

Gentz, Fawcett suggests,

“was an early model of a familiar present-day figure, the clever policy intellectual with top degrees circulating between right-wing think tanks, conservative magazines, and political leaders’ private offices.”

And Gentz in his essay “On the Balance of Power”, published in 1806, developed the ideas which would guide the post-Napoleonic settlement, upholding peace between nations while retarding not just revolution but democracy.

Fawcett is excellent at giving us a feeling for his conservatives by quoting remarks which a less worldly Lefty would not find funny, and might therefore be inclined to censor.

So at a dinner at the Congress of Aix in 1818 we get Gentz telling Robert Owen, pioneer of utopian socialism and of the co-operative movement:

“We do not want the mass to become wealthy and independent of us. How could we govern them if they were?”

But Gentz was not some blinkered reactionary, who supposed the ruling classes could restore to themselves the privileges they had enjoyed before 1789:

“Revolution had to be fought, Gentz insisted, not with nostalgia but with modernity’s own weapons.”

Here is another part of the explanation for conservative incomprehensibility. Intelligent conservatives are at once more attached to the past than their opponents, and more anxious to understand what will work in the future.

This mixture of mixture of emotion and pragmatism cannot be reduced to an ideology – the very thing that leftish commentators consider it a mortal weakness not to possess.

Fawcett’s book is brilliantly organised, so one can without difficulty find what conservatives in Britain, France, Germany and the United States were saying and doing in any particular period.

He himself worked for The Economist as its chief correspondent in Washington, Paris, Berlin and Brussels, and also as its European and literary editor.

As in that magazine, his eye for what is happening overseas is very good, but the texture of British politics is sometimes smoothed away in order to make it fit some editorial analysis.

Fawcett does not get Benjamin Disraeli. Few historians of ideas do, for by the time the butterfly has been pinned to the page, he is dead.

Millions of voters did get Disraeli, loved his patriotism and felt exhilarated by his impudence. He is the only Prime Minister who has inspired the creation of a posthumous cult: the Primrose League.

When he comes to Stanley Baldwin, Fawcett attributes his description of the new Conservative MPs elected in 1918 as “a lot of hard-faced men who look as if they had done very well out of the war” to Lloyd George, as if only a Liberal could see how repulsive the Tories were.

Baldwin succeeded in part because he well understood how repulsive the Tories might seem, and took enormous pains to create a more favourable impression.

In 1980, Fawcett introduces us to “the hard right”. It is an unsatisfactory label, for the word “hard” makes it sound more defined, and less yielding, than it really is.

Fawcett knows the term is not satisfactory, for he keeps worrying away at it, and trying to justify it. In the course of a passage about Donald Trump, he writes:

“The hard right, in sum, was not weird or extreme. It was popular and normal. Indeed, it was alarming because it was popular and normal.

“Lest the term ‘hard right’ here sound loaded, and the account of events overdrawn, the passion and dismay with which mainstream conservatives themselves reacted needs recalling. They did not, in detached spirit, dwell confidently on the hard right’s visible weaknesses and incompatibilities. They did not ask if there was here a pantomime villain got up by the liberal left.”

Trump was and is an opportunist, a huckster who has belonged to three different political parties, and who seeks, as American presidential candidates since Andrew Jackson have sought, to get himself elected by expressing the anger of poor white voters who loathe the condescension of the East Coast establishment.

When he comes to consider Boris Johnson, Fawcett quotes The Economist‘s description of him as “indifferent to the truth”, and its advice to voters last December to vote Liberal Democrat – a way, perhaps, of feeling virtuous, but also of opting out of the choice actually facing the country.

Fawcett goes on to attribute a “forceful hard-right style” to Johnson, and a “disregard for familiar liberal-democratic norms”. The author is worried, for as he declares in his preface:

“To survive, let alone flourish, liberal democracy needs the right’s support… When, as now, the right hesitates or denies its support, liberal democracy’s health is at risk.”

The conservative family is in danger of going to the bad. This is true, but has always been true, and sometimes the warnings have turned out to be exaggerated.

Johnson enjoys teasing liberals, but has lived much among them, craves their approval and himself possesses many liberal characteristics.

Fawcett will know this, for he is the Prime Minister’s uncle: a brother of Johnson’s mother Charlotte.

The near impossibility of defining Johnson, something of which his critics complain, could even be a sign that he is a conservative.

These quibbles about the last part of the book in no way diminish admiration for it as an astonishingly accomplished survey of the last two centuries of conservative thought.

Nick Fletcher: Ministers must do more to strike the right balance between health and happiness

30 Oct

Nick Fletcher is MP for Don Valley.

I heard some time ago from a constituent of mine that the Government’s role, above everything else, was to keep its people safe and happy.

I can understand the view that the Government has a duty to keep people safe. After all, for most people, the very reason for the state is to ensure that life is not, as the saying goes, “nasty, brutish and short”.

In many ways, this is still one of the top priorities of the state. Keeping us safe from war, safe from starvation, safe when on the roads, streets and in our homes. We take this as a given, and rightly so.

More difficult a question is whether the Government has to ensure that people are kept happy. With human nature being so complex, the ability for a government to successfully pursue such a policy will always be questionable. In my view, and in the view of most ordinary people, ensuring happiness is usually the role of the individual.

Yet as the Covid-19 pandemic lingers on, it is clear that the belief that the state must also ensure the happiness of individuals has now crept into our public discourse.

I don’t believe in reliance on luck for happiness. Instead, I think that individuals must forge their own paths. They must make decisions and take ownership of their own futures. There are various ways in which any government can help remove obstacles for people and make some aspects of life smoother. Yet as happiness is such a subjective feeling, it may only be made possible by ensuring liberty and giving people choice.

If one of the roles of Government is to make people happy, the best (and arguably only way) this can be achieved is through preserving liberty so people can take charge of their own lives and make their own decisions.

During the pandemic, my views on this issue have only been reaffirmed. Currently, my constituents are roughly split into two camps: those who wish to open the country up again for their mental wellbeing, and those who are concerned about the increasing numbers of Covid cases. Half in the people of Don Valley want the Government to maintain or even reintroduce previous restrictions. The other half, meanwhile, want to have their freedom restored so they can do things which make them happy.

In these circumstances, the Government faces a significant dilemma. Yet it must not become a nanny state and appeal to only one faction – those who wish to be safe. Instead, there is another strategy which I believe the Government should pursue. It should introduce flexible measures which both keep people safe and allow others to pursue what they want to do. If we allow the vulnerable to shield and continue working from home, and the non-vulnerable to go about their business, then we will both save lives and preserve people’s liberties.

It is so essential both that those who want to be kept safe from the virus do not spoil the freedom of others, and those who want to go out respect the concerns of those shielding. This ensures that the vulnerable are safe, but by preserving liberty, it also allows other individuals to pursue activities which make them happy.

Would such a strategy be complicated? Perhaps. Yet those who felt threatened by the virus would feel safe, while those who felt that their liberty was threatened would feel reassured. In other words, both sides would be satisfied, and the Government could carry out the duties my constituent believes it should: keeping us all safe and happy.

Albie Amankona: It’s time for a Conservative approach to anti-racism

30 Oct

Albie Amankona is co-founder of Conservatives Against Racism For Equality (CARFE).

As we mark the end of Black History Month in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and the Black Lives Matter protests, it has become clear that the wrong types of arguments for racial equality in the UK have been getting too much attention.

As a black Conservative activist, I was proud to hear so many of our MPs passionately share their commitment to racial equality in the historic Parliamentary debate on education and BAME history.

Notably, Steve Baker, who announced his position as Chairman of Conservatives Against Racism For Equality (CARFE), co-founded by myself and Siobhan Aarons. Together, we are building a Conservative approach to anti-racism; so far over 20 MPs and dozens of activists from all wings of the party and across the country have pledged their support, including Jeremy Hunt, Tim Loughton, and Robert Halfon.

Most fair-minded people agree with the statement that black lives matter, but disagree with the ideology of the organisation Black Lives Matter. They will agree that racism is not an issue of left and right, but an issue of right and wrong.

So why has it become so divisive? Few who garner media attention are making pragmatic, fact-based and effective arguments for racial equality. It’s time to build a Conservative approach to anti-racism which acknowledges injustices, but is based on the principles of patriotism, liberty, individual responsibility, the rule of law, equality of opportunity and growth-based prosperity. 

What many commentators miss is that the “all white people are racist”, Critical Race Theory inspired, anti-free speech, anti-police, anti-British type of anti-racism is never going to win the hearts and minds of the British people.

It is in no-one’s interest for 87 per cent of the population to feel guilty simply for being alive and for 13 per cent of the population to feel that the other 87 per cent unconsciously hate them simply because of the colour of their skin. But it is a fact that for many people, racism is a sad reality of life.

Proof of this includes the fact that 50 per cent of young offenders incarcerated are BAME, 40 per cent of the UK’s poorest households are black households, the risk of death in childbirth for black mothers is five times that of white mums and black people of working age are twice as likely to be unemployed than their white counterparts. 

Now is the time to redress the balance, redraw the boundaries of the debate and articulate a new approach. Conservatives have always been champions of justice and we must double-down on fighting inequality through classical liberal principles. The alternative is a diluted version of Labour’s “white-apologist” approach which serves no-one but the metropolitan liberal elite debating at dinner parties, posting black squares on Instagram and denouncing Churchill.

As the only serious party which supports the principle of free speech, ours has the most power to lead a rational debate on race; Labour has made its mind up. In its eyes, Britain is a bigoted country, which has done more harm than good in the world. The party fights against American food imports, but accepts without question the wholesale adoption of American theories on race. It perceives BAME voters to have no personal responsibility and of needing infinite government hand-outs and safe-spaces.

None of this is true and frankly, the findings from the Equality and Human Rights Commission report into the Labour Party proves that its approach to anti-racism is far from perfect.

As Conservatives we must seize the opportunity to lead this debate, to ask those uncomfortable questions, find those difficult answers and implement effective solutions which will have a meaningful impact on Britain’s minority citizens.

We are the party for all and were elected to serve all, so this endeavour could not be more Conservative. We are calling on all Conservative activists and parliamentarians to join ussign our pledge and support our campaign.

Together, we can build our own common-sense approach to anti-racism and a country that all of our children, whatever their hue, will be proud to call home.

Newslinks for Friday 30th October 2020

30 Oct

‘Battle for Labour’s soul’ as Corbyn is suspended…

“Sir Keir Starmer has been warned that he faces a battle for the soul of the Labour Party after Jeremy Corbyn was suspended over a report on antisemitism. The Equality and Human Rights Commission investigation found that the party had unlawfully discriminated against its Jewish members and Sir Keir warned that anyone disputing the scale of the problem “should be nowhere near the Labour Party”. He vowed to take a “zero-tolerance approach” and said: “We have failed Jewish people, our members, our supporters and the British public. On behalf of the Labour Party I am truly sorry.” Mr Corbyn then insisted that antisemitism in the party was “dramatically overstated for political reasons” by his opponents and the media and swiftly had the whip withdrawn. He claimed that the decision to suspend him was a “political intervention” and he would strongly contest it.” – The Times

  • His team ‘meddled in 23 anti-Semitism complaints as leader and is responsible for failings’ – The Sun
  • ‘Shaken’ Corbyn may never be allowed to rejoin Labour Party – The Times
  • Ex-Labour MPs slam Corbyn for standing back as they suffered anti-Semitism – The Sun

>Today: ToryDiary: Will Labour expel Corbyn?

…with McCluskey ‘leading hard-left revolt’

“Labour has exploded into brutal civil warfare over anti-Semitism after former leader Jeremy Corbyn was suspended in the wake of an official report which tore into party racism under his leadership. Hard-left figures in the party including union baron Len McCluskey, former shadow chancellor John McDonnell and Diane Abbott are lining up to support Mr Corbyn against moderate Labour led by Sir Keir Starmer. Socialist former leader Corbyn – who has previously been caught on a Mail Online exclusive video saying British Zionists ‘don’t get English irony’ – was stripped of the party whip hours after a damning report found Labour guilty of breaking equality laws. Lord Mann, the UK’s anti-Semitism tsar, said it was ‘the moment of greatest shame in the history of the Labour Party’.” – Daily Mail

  • Labour’s left calls for suspension to be lifted – The Guardian
  • Shaming of former leader sparks Labour civil war – Daily Telegraph
  • Corbyn supporters pour £340,000 into his legal fighting fund – Daily Mail

The Report:

  • The key findings, and what happens now – Daily Telegraph
  • Critical points and people – The Times
  •  Starmer had his response ready… then came Corbyn’s post – The Guardian

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: Starmer is pressed to offer a personal apology on anti-semitism

Ian Austin: Corbyn should be thrown out of the Labour Party for good

“Unfortunately, Members of Parliament who should have known better nominated him for leader. The membership rules were relaxed allowing not just the well-meaning or naïve to join, but every crank and conspiracy theorist from the hard-Left fringes, too. And when he won, senior figures fell into line, serving loyally in his shadow cabinet, sustaining his leadership and campaigning to make him Prime Minister. The result was a five-year catastrophe that caused huge offence to the Jewish community and destroyed Labour’s reputation. A political party founded on the principles of equality and justice, with a proud record of fighting racism, has now been found guilty of breaking the law in its treatment of Jewish people. What a complete and utter disgrace.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Antisemitism in the Labour party was real and it must never be allowed to return – Margaret Hodge, The Guardian
  • Why was Starmer so damningly silent on Jeremy Corbyn for so long? – Stephen Pollard, Daily Mail
  • We’ll keep holding Labour to its word on antisemitism – Jonathan Goldstein, Times Red Box

More:

  • Labour’s greatest schism since that electrifying conference assault on Militant – Dominic Sandbrook, Daily Mail
  • An end to Labour’s antisemitism controversy seems as far away as ever – Keith Kahn-Harris, The Guardian
  • Starmer has an unmissable opportunity to tackle the hard Left – Tom Harris, Daily Telegraph

Editorial:

  • Starmer must bite the bullet and send Corbyn and his goons packing for good – The Sun
  • A shocking indictment of its previous leadership – The Times
  • Ending a sorry chapter in Labour history – FT

Johnson under pressure to impose pre- and post-Christmas lockdowns

“Boris Johnson is facing growing pressure to implement a widespread lockdown before and after Christmas while allowing families to meet over the festive period. Senior figures warned that the UK’s current tiers system was not enough to “get on top of the numbers” but said harsher restrictions in the coming weeks could allow some relaxation in the Christmas holidays. Jonathan Van-Tam, the deputy chief medical officer, told ministers he was beginning to change his mind about whether regional lockdowns were enough to hold back the virus. He presented “very, very bleak” data to a meeting of Covid-O, the the Cabinet subcommittee on coronavirus, highlighting the fact that daily hospital admissions had reached the highest level since April at 1,404.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Stricter curbs put England on course for lockdown ‘by proxy’ – The Times
  • Covid cases rise in England – FT
  • Hospitals ‘could run out of beds by December 17’ – Daily Mail
  • Get ready for Tier Four! – Daily Express
  • Another national lockdown will lead to repeated country-wide shutdowns, minister warns – The Sun

More:

  • Cyprus put on UK quarantine list from Sunday morning – The Sun
  • Restrictions were unlawful, entrepreneur tells judges – The Times

Comment:

  • Covid is killing faith in western democracy – James Forsyth, The Times
  • The greatest tragedy of England’s second wave is that it wasn’t inevitable – Charlotte Summers, The Guardian
  • Coronavirus hysteria is worse than the virus – Dr Jon Dobinson, The Sun

>Today: Ian Dale’s column: Stop this utter selfishness and pathetic whinging about not having a normal Christmas to look forward to

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Why we should “have enough of experts” – the SAGE advisers and Great Barrington signatories alike

Famous farmers lobby MPs in Brexit battle for food standards

““Celebrity” farmers are writing to every MP urging them to back their British colleagues before a crunch vote next week on food standards. The group, which includes Jimmy Doherty, the television presenter, and Helen Browning, chief executive of the Soil Association, is urging the government to enshrine environmental guards, animal welfare and hygiene into law ahead of trade negotiations. They want the government to restrict “low-quality” food imports, such as chlorinated chicken and hormone-fed beef, which they say could force British farmers out of business… The letter reflects growing concerns among consumer groups and farmers about the potential consequences of post-Brexit free trade deals with countries around the world.” – The Times

  • Farming standards – Letters to the Editor, The Times

More:

  • Canada says UK rollover trade deal will be far easier than Brexit talks – Daily Telegraph
  • Brexit talks making good progress, says Von der Leyen – The Guardian
  • Johnson given one day deadline to respond to EU legal action – Daily Express

>Yesterday:

Ross demands Johnson keep Universal Credit £20 per week Covid uplift

“A massive Tory split opened last night as the Scottish Conservative boss took aim at Boris Johnson over benefit cash. Douglas Ross backed extending the £20 a week Universal Credit pandemic uplift – and demanded London reassure the nation the cash taps will not be cut in April. The Tory leader north of the border said the six-in-one benefits system has been a “vital safety net” for millions and it would be unfair to yank support as the pandemic continues to ravage the country – and urged them to keep it “for the foreseeable future”… 5.8million people across the UK – including half a million in Scotland alone – are now claiming Universal Credit. Millions have been pushed on to it after losing their jobs during the coronavirus crisis.” – The Sun

  • Commons dismisses sexual assault claims against ex-Scottish Tory MP – The Guardian

>Today: Adrian Mason in Local Government: The Internal Market Bill will help North Wales compete

>Yesterday: Henry Hill’s Red, White, and Blue column: Tories claim Drakeford has turned Wales into ‘test-bed for left-wing socialist authority’

Channel 4 chief plays down privatisation threat after ‘healthy results’

Shield“The chief executive of Channel 4 has played down the government’s renewed threat to sell the UK public service broadcaster, arguing that the network’s performance during the pandemic has “clearly proved our financial sustainability”. Alex Mahon’s comments came after culture secretary Oliver Dowden this month said that privatisation plans for Channel 4 were back “on the table”, as the Conservative government takes a combative stance against the BBC and its smaller peers. Channel 4, which is publicly owned but commercially funded, on Thursday said when announcing its full-year results that it expected revenues in 2020 to be between 7 per cent and 10 per cent below 2019 figures, which at £985m were its second highest on record.” – FT

  • BBC chief orders staff to stop virtue signalling on social media… – The Times
  • …sparking revolt – Daily Express

News in Brief:

  • Starmer should expel Corbyn after Labour’s day of shame – Oliver Kamm, CapX
  • British conservatism is a ghost – Aris Roussinos, UnHerd
  • It’s time to expel Turkey from Nato – Tim Ogden, The Spectator
  • Feminists must reject left and right – Louise Perry, The Critic
  • Labour should try and repeal the curfew – Brendan Chilton, 1828