HENRY DEEDES: MPs ‘herded like cows’ as Parliament returns


More than half a mile the line snaked back through the Parliamentary Estate. From the Commons chamber it began, out through the cavernous environs of Westminster Hall before spilling out into New Palace Yard.

For three months, the whole of this area had been totally deserted bar the odd armed policeman. Now, at 4pm on a baking first day back from recess, it was suddenly awash with MPs.

This was not a fire drill. And no, it was not the queue for MPs to reclaim their precious expenses. Members were voting on Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg’s decision to do away with remote votes and return to a ‘physical-only’ Commons. In these social distancing times, this is how MPs will now be required to pass laws. Herded like moo cows on the way to market. Goodness what a carry on.

Despite Parliamentary staff’s best efforts, it was not an organised scene. A tinge of chaos hung in the air. Think Stansted airport on August bank holiday, though sans screaming toddlers. Thank goodness.

Some MPs irritably removed their jackets in the sweltering afternoon sun. Others, predictably, decided to capture this unusual moment by taking selfies. Ducking in among them was one Parliament’s men in tights, sword dangling by his side, frantically ensuring they remained two metres apart.

Members were voting on Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg’s decision to do away with remote votes and return to a ‘physical-only’ Commons

Rank and position bore no priority. Beneath my office window, at the very back of the queue, I saw Sir Keir Starmer patiently hovering on the cobbles. I maintained a watchful look out for the Prime Minister but never saw him arrive.

Meanwhile, the scene inside the chamber was no less barmy. Some members seemed genuinely confused as to how to cast their vote. The poor clerk became really quite terse.

‘Name and how you’re voting, please!’ she cried as they approached the dispatch box quizzically. Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle was similarly irked by the slow speed of foot traffic. Dawdlers were met with a yell of ‘Coooome on!’ Some 43 minutes later we were done. Usually a vote takes little over ten.

With technology now in place, which has allowed MPs vote via mobile telephone during lockdown, this is a remarkably analogue move. More pertinently, by scrapping the remote system some elderly MPs currently having to shield are now unable to vote. Needless to say, the debate which preceded the vote was a snippy affair.

Rees-Mogg insisted remote voting has always been a temporary measure. His reasoning was that voting on important legislature demanded the respect of turning up in person.

Former Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn was spotted queuing alongside fellow MPs to vote in the Commons

Former Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn was spotted queuing alongside fellow MPs to vote in the Commons

He was disturbed to learn some members had cast their vote during Parliament’s hybrid period while out walking. ‘Voting while having a sunny walk or watching television does democracy an injustice,’ he said, a tad preciously. Mogg’s opposite number Valerie Vaz accused him of ‘staggering arrogance.’ Liz Saville-Roberts (Plaid Cymru, Dwyfor Meirionnydd) said preventing those MPs unable to attend the House from voting was effectively showing their constituents they mattered less.

Caroline Nokes (Con, Romsey & Southampton N) deemed Mogg’s motion discriminatory. Ian Paisley (DUP, N Antrim) complained of the difficulties he and his colleagues had getting to Westminster, due to the paucity of flights from Belfast.

Mogg, whose London home is a short walk from the Commons, was mildly sympathetic to this. He was impressed, too, by SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford’s ‘commitment to Parliamentary democracy’ after his journey from the Isle of Skye had taken 16 hours. ‘Perhaps he’s a secret unionist!’ shouted a heckler.

Blackford was indignant. ‘This is ludicrous and a waste of our time,’ he fumed, his jowls wobbling with affected fury. When Deputy Speaker Dame Eleanor Laing urged Blackford to hurry his speech along, he refused. ‘Move along!’ went up the cry from the Government benches.

Most surprising moment of the session was unearthed by Chris Bryant (Lab, Rhondda) who, rightly, predicted the queues to vote would be worse than the ones at Alton Towers.

‘Have you ever been to Alton Towers?’ Bryant yelled at the dispatch box. ‘Yes, took my sister Annunziata many years ago,’ Jacob replied. That I would have paid to see.

As for the vote, it passed comfortably. So for the next few months, Parliament’s going to be a right old palaver.

'As for the vote, it passed comfortably. So for the next few months, Parliament’s going to be a right old palaver,' says Henry Deedes

‘As for the vote, it passed comfortably. So for the next few months, Parliament’s going to be a right old palaver,’ says Henry Deedes

Mind your PM-queues 

By John Stevens 

The House of Commons was branded an ‘embarrassing shambles’ yesterday as MPs queued for more than half a mile to take part in a vote.

Critics mocked Westminster for looking more like a theme park as the line stretched outside and around the Parliamentary Estate.

The chaotic scenes came as the Government axed virtual proceedings that had allowed MPs to vote online and take part in debates from home via video link during the coronavirus crisis.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Leader of the Commons, insisted that it was the right time to ditch the ‘stop-gap’ measures and require MPs to appear in person.

‘We need proper debate, we need to be back, we need to have a proper full-blooded democracy and that is what we are getting,’ he said. Making the case for why online voting should not be allowed to continue, he added: ‘Voting while enjoying a sunny walk or whilst watching television does democracy an injustice. The solemn decisions we take together affect the lives of millions of people in this country.

Critics mocked Westminster for looking more like a theme park as the line stretched outside and around the Parliamentary Estate. Pictured: Chancellor Rishi Sunak queues outside the House of Commons to vote

Critics mocked Westminster for looking more like a theme park as the line stretched outside and around the Parliamentary Estate. Pictured: Chancellor Rishi Sunak queues outside the House of Commons to vote

‘We ask members to vote in person for a reason, because it is the heart of what Parliament is about.’

But opponents warned that the move excluded those forced to remain at home because they are shielding due to serious health conditions. As they took part in the first votes since returning to Westminster, MPs formed a single-file line stretching for almost 1,000 yards as they were told to maintain a distance of 6ft – two metres – from each other.

Westminster Hall was jokingly compared to an airport departure lounge as ropes were put out to mark where MPs were to queue. The line, including both ministers and backbenchers, snaked around New Palace Yard outside, running to Portcullis House.

It took an hour and 25 minutes for two votes that would normally take 15 minutes each, despite repeated attempts by Sir Lindsay Hoyle to quicken the pace. The Commons Speaker could be heard telling MPs: ‘Why are we not keeping up? There are other members waiting.’

Labour’s Chris Bryant likened matters to a theme park, joking ‘have you ever been to Alton Towers’ to which Mr Rees-Mogg replied: ‘Indeed, yes I have, I took my sister Annunziata there many years ago.’

Tory former Cabinet minister Karen Bradley, who chairs the procedure committee, moved an amendment to keep remote voting in place, with several Conservative MPs rebelling to support the proposal. But it was defeated by 185 votes to 242 following a 46-minute division. MPs later approved the Government’s motion to allow only voting in person by 261 to 163, a majority of 98.

Westminster Hall was jokingly compared to an airport departure lounge as ropes were put out to mark where MPs were to queue

Westminster Hall was jokingly compared to an airport departure lounge as ropes were put out to mark where MPs were to queue

The SNP mocked the creation of a ‘conga line Parliament’, while others questioned whether it was a good use of time.

Nusrat Ghani, a Conservative former minister, tweeted: ‘How very British. We could vote electronically and crack on with business in Parliament or we can stand in queues.’

Tory Michael Fabricant said: ‘Anyone watching the voting live on BBC Parliament would see what an embarrassing shambles it is.’

Labour MP Mark Tami accused the Government of bringing MPs back to Westminster so there were more people to cheer Boris Johnson at Prime Minister’s Questions. He said: ‘This utterly daft voting will put thousands of people – parliamentary staff, MPs, their families and constituents – at greater risk.

‘All because Tories are embarrassed by Boris Johnson’s performance against Keir Starmer without a crowd of backbenchers cheering behind him.’ Kevin Brennan, another Labour MP, joked: ‘This queue is so long I just saw one MP using Google Maps.’

Mr Rees-Mogg said he will table a motion today that would enable MPs unable to attend Parliament on medical grounds to take part in some proceedings. However, they will not be able to take part in votes.

Earlier, Tory MP Robert Halfon, who has cerebral palsy and is shielding, accused the Government of turning him into a ‘parliamentary eunuch’.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission wrote to MPs to raise concern, saying it ‘cannot be right’ to exclude elected representatives.

Now we know coronavirus is not a random killer, this one-size-fits-all lockdown must come to an end


Finally, we can say with confidence what many of us have suspected for weeks: not only is the end of the pandemic now in sight but also the people best-placed to recharge our economy have little to fear from it.

Thanks to definitive figures released yesterday by Public Health England, we know that Covid-19 is not a random killer, but one that targets specific groups – namely the old and those with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes or dementia.

The statistics are astounding: those aged over 80 are fully 70 times more likely to die of the disease than those under 40, while being morbidly obese increases your risk of dying by two and a half times. And fortunately the death rate among children is very low.

All of which means that the challenge now is to get the economy back to work, to get the children into schools, and our hospitals returning to the crucial diagnostic work and routine procedures that have been put on hold with devastating consequences we have yet to see.

Professor Karol Sikora (pictured) is consultant oncologist and professor of medicine, University of Buckingham Medical School

It should also act as a massive boost to our economy, as it means that factories and businesses, where workers are predominantly young and healthy, can reopen with sensible precautions.

The easy part of the lockdown was starting it. The message was simple: we are all in danger, do as you’re told, and if you don’t, we’ve given the police special powers to fine or arrest you.

Lifting it will be much harder, partly because the dangers of Covid-19 were exaggerated as a matter of public policy and people were brainwashed into a state of fear.

But now that we know that Covid-19 is a selective killer, we have to accept that we cannot have a one-size-fits-all approach to the lockdown.

Certain people are more vulnerable than others – and it should now be up to them to make a personal assessment of their individual risk.

After all, we make such judgements all the time. To take an extreme example, my wife has made a parachute jump; I have not, and never would. Our respective decisions are based on how scared we are at the thought of jumping out of an airplane, and on our rational assessment of the risks involved. So it is with Covid-19. As an oncologist, I have spoken to elderly patients this week with terminal cancers who will not live more than a few months. They ask me if they should take advantage of the easing of the shielding measures to finally get out of their homes, and maybe see their families before they die.

'Now that we know that Covid-19 is a selective killer, we have to accept that we cannot have a one-size-fits-all approach to the lockdown,' says Professor Karol Sikora

‘Now that we know that Covid-19 is a selective killer, we have to accept that we cannot have a one-size-fits-all approach to the lockdown,’ says Professor Karol Sikora

I tell them that they must make their own decisions, but I certainly wouldn’t blame them for taking a calculated risk to live their last weeks to the full. But, I say, be sensible.

While the latest figures should certainly act as a morale boost for people who can start thinking about a return to normality, many unsuspecting Brits will be shocked to read that they appear disproportionately at-risk.

Those of us who work in hospitals could not help noticing the depressingly high number of our Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) colleagues who died from Covid-19 in the early weeks of the pandemic.

And those disturbing trends were confirmed yesterday with the release of ONS data showing that people of Bangladeshi origin are twice as likely to die as infected white Britons. It also showed people of African, south Asian, Chinese and Caribbean origin have between a 10 and 50 per cent higher risk of death.

We do not know yet how to account for this. Socio-economic factors may be an influence, and it is partly explained by south Asians’ greater risk of having kidney disease. There could be hidden genetic explanations we do not yet understand.

Some colleagues say I am too optimistic, but I have a sneaking feeling we’ll be largely through this by September

Some colleagues say I am too optimistic, but I have a sneaking feeling we’ll be largely through this by September

Elsewhere there is more encouraging news, not least the drop in the number of people dying with Covid-19 to 2,872 in the week ending May 22, down from 3,810 the week before.

So too the chance of getting infected has plummeted to around one in a thousand compared with one in 40 at the peak of the curve.

The truth is that Covid-19 in most parts of the world, Latin America excepted, is showing signs of petering out.

Of course, we must not ignore spikes in the disease, such as in South Korea and in our own northern cities. These require intense vigilance and swift local measures where necessary, but we should not be fearful.

Some colleagues say I am too optimistic, but I have a sneaking feeling we’ll be largely through this by September.

And when it is all over, we must do our best not to emerge into a ‘New Normal’ – in that dismal cliched phrase that suggests a dull, constrained future – but an ‘Old Normal’, as we seize back our former lives.

With flexibility from our politicians and the wise application of our own judgment, such an ending no longer seems impossible. 

Professor Karol Sikora is consultant oncologist and professor of medicine, University of Buckingham Medical School.

SUE REID: A truly terrible toll for those left to suffer in silence at home 


Patients with cancer, heart problems and other life-threatening ailments are feared to have died at home as the NHS turned its focus to the pandemic.

Alarmingly, delays in cancer surgery alone will cost more lives than the number of virus patients saved in hospitals, predicts Britain’s Institute of Cancer Research, one of the world’s most-respected health bodies.

The wake-up call, in an Institute report, warns a three-month delay in operations on the most common adult cancers risks 5,000 extra deaths. A six-month delay would push those excess fatalities up to 11,000.

The NHS waiting list already stretches to many millions and now faces one of the steepest backlog of cases in its history. The British Medical Association says that for doctors and all healthcare workers, this is a daunting prospect [File photo]

The disturbing report follows shocking new figures released by Cancer Research UK that more than two million patients have missed out on vital cancer tests and treatment during the pandemic.

Last week, Macmillan Cancer Support warned that nearly 2,000 cases of cancer are going undiagnosed every week due to the crisis.

The Mail revealed the unfolding tragedy of untreated patients last month. By the end of April, just a few weeks after the NHS switched its attention to Covid-19 sufferers, hospital referrals for cancer treatment in England had dropped by nearly 70 per cent.

Under 100 organ transplants were carried out in April, the lowest for 36 years, according to NHS figures. On a day in April, only six of its 24 liver transplant centres were open.

Professor Peter Friend, director of the Oxford Transplant Centre, says that liver, kidney, and heart patients were already dying on lengthy waiting lists before the pandemic. ‘The effect of doing fewer transplants means that this mortality rate must increase,’ he has warned.

The ordinary public seems to think that hospitals are dangerous places to be right now. One allergy specialist told the Mail that in his north of England clinic, only the most seriously ill risk being infected by the virus [File photo]

The ordinary public seems to think that hospitals are dangerous places to be right now. One allergy specialist told the Mail that in his north of England clinic, only the most seriously ill risk being infected by the virus [File photo]

Cardiac specialists have reported a 60 per cent decline in hospital admissions for heart attacks, a condition which the NHS says requires ‘immediate’ treatment in casualty.

Meanwhile, a death certificate count by the Office for National Statistics shows almost 13,000 more people than expected have died in England and Wales since mid-March from causes other than coronavirus.

Statisticians at Oxford and Cambridge are now calling for a national inquiry into the extra deaths amid fears that a lack of medical care is responsible.

Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, chairman of the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication at the University of Cambridge, explained: ‘There’s a huge spike in non-Covid deaths at home very quickly into the epidemic.

‘It’s important to know how many might have been at least delayed if the normal (NHS) healthcare system had existed.’ Visits to England’s accident and emergency departments have halved since the outbreak, tumbling to the lowest since records began.

It means people displaying the early signs of serious diseases have stayed away in their thousands. A nurse and Mail reader has sent us reports with photos showing how many people were at four main casualty departments on a recent Monday afternoon.

The waiting rooms at the finest flagship hospitals in London – Chelsea and Westminster, St Thomas’ in Westminster, St Mary’s Paddington and the Royal London in the East End – had just a handful of patients.

It suggests people are afraid of going to casualty in case they break lockdown rules or catch the virus while there. The ordinary public seems to think that hospitals are dangerous places to be right now.

The wake-up call, in an Institute report, warns a three-month delay in operations on the most common adult cancers risks 5,000 extra deaths. A six-month delay would push those excess fatalities up to 11,000 [File photo]

The wake-up call, in an Institute report, warns a three-month delay in operations on the most common adult cancers risks 5,000 extra deaths. A six-month delay would push those excess fatalities up to 11,000 [File photo]

One allergy specialist told the Mail that in his north of England clinic, only the most seriously ill risk being infected by the virus.

‘These are people who are desperate for help. They will take a risk. Others are afraid of coming to my clinic and could lose their lives because of that.’

NHS England has produced a complex ‘road map’ for opening up hospitals to all patients. Those accepted for treatment or operations will have to isolate for 14 days and be clear of any symptoms before admission. Inevitably it will mean more delays.

Significantly, there will be tests on patients before they arrive to make sure they are Covid-19 free to ‘protect’ others working and being cared for in the hospitals.

But when the virus is defeated, children are back to school, shops reopened, and cities no longer in lockdown, what will happen to the countless numbers who are seriously ill and whose treatment has been delayed?

The NHS waiting list already stretches to many millions and now faces one of the steepest backlog of cases in its history.

The British Medical Association says that for doctors and all healthcare workers, this is a daunting prospect. 

A spokesman said: ‘They want nothing more than to provide the best care for their patients and avoid delays in essential treatment for diseases.’

One has to wonder whether the doctors’ goodwill will really be enough.

ANDREW PIERCE: Boris Johnson is every inch a hero to David Cameron’s rich pal


ANDREW PIERCE: Boris Johnson is every inch a hero to David Cameron’s rich pal

After refusing to sack Dominic Cummings for allegedly breaking lockdown rules, Boris Johnson appears to have lost the support of a number of disgruntled Tory MPs.

But at least he can find solace in having forged a new alliance with a powerful ally. For I can reveal that he has secured the surprising backing of billionaire property mogul Tony Gallagher.

Tory donor Gallagher’s patronage certainly comes with its perks. 

In 2016, when he was a keen supporter of David Cameron, he hosted the former Prime Minister’s 50th birthday party at his home, one of the grandest private properties in Britain: 17th-century Sarsden House, in Oxfordshire, which is set in 459 acres of land.

Boris Johnson has forged a new alliance with a powerful ally – he has secured the surprising backing of billionaire property mogul Tony Gallagher

While Boris is yet to receive such a generous offer, last month Gallagher did present him with an £800 silver ruler engraved with the name of every British Prime Minister, including Mr Johnson’s. 

Leader of the Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg, who argued successfully for the Virtual Parliament to end and MPs to return to Westminster this week, seems to have enjoyed his time at home. ‘I’m reading a book on the Black Death,’ he recently said. 

What better way to lift one’s spirits in these dark times?

News of such a lavish gift will no doubt leave Westminster watchers scratching their heads — not least because Gallagher was a staunch Remainer in the EU referendum and gave thousands to the cause.

But Gallagher tells me: ‘I think Boris is tremendous and is doing a good job in incredibly difficult circumstances.’

Asked which engraved name on the ruler was his favourite PM, Gallagher, whose similar gifts to David Cameron and Theresa May were put on display in the Cabinet Office, says: ‘Ah, good try, but you’re not getting me on that. 

They all have their strengths but I am a huge admirer of Boris.’

Last month, Tony Gallagher (pictured) did present the Prime Minister with an £800 silver ruler engraved with the name of every British Prime Minister, including Mr Johnson's

Last month, Tony Gallagher (pictured) did present the Prime Minister with an £800 silver ruler engraved with the name of every British Prime Minister, including Mr Johnson’s

Is that a Covid clanger, Nick? 

When BBC presenter Nick Robinson interviewed Tory MP John Penrose last week about Covid-19 in his local hospital in Weston-super-Mare, Robinson asked if the new Government test-and-trace scheme ‘run by a woman called Dido Harding’ would help.

Penrose replied: ‘As a matter of disclosure, Dido Harding is my wife.’

As a matter of disclosure, do you think Robinson blushed. 

In the delay before Dominic Cummings’s press conference last week, Tim Burgess, of rock band The Charlatans, tweeted: ‘If you were this late for a JobCentre interview, you’d lose your benefits.’

Five minutes later, Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy told her followers on social media: ‘If Dominic Cummings turned up this late to the JobCentre he’d be sanctioned.’ Her post garnered 65,000 ‘likes’.

Shall we be charitable and call that a cover version? 

Dominic Cummings has come under fire for driving 260 miles to Durham from London. The No.10 special adviser is pictured leaving his north London home on May 29

Dominic Cummings has come under fire for driving 260 miles to Durham from London. The No.10 special adviser is pictured leaving his north London home on May 29

No porkies: Parliament’s £3m meat bill

The pandemic may have left Parliament deserted but MPs will be relieved to learn that its opulent charms will still be there when calm is restored.

Indeed, it has just issued a tender for its supply of meat, poultry and game over the next four years, to the tune of £3 million — which is lip-smackingly good news for its canteen aficionados. But aren’t there enough porkies doing the rounds in Westminster?  

Joke of the week: This gag is doing the rounds among politicos: ‘Dominic Cummings is a golfing term. It’s a long drive that goes out of bounds but carries no penalty.’

Tory MP Douglas Ross, who resigned as a junior Scottish Office minister following Dominic Cummings’s trip to Barnard Castle, is a qualified professional football referee. 

Cue the inevitable riposte from Tory MPs: ‘He’s given himself a red card.’

New Tory MP Lee Anderson may only have been in the job for a matter of months, but that hasn’t stopped him sticking the boot in.

‘Seeing as Boris has said up to six people can meet outdoors, there is now a good chance the Lib Dem Conference can go ahead,’ the MP for Ashfield remarked. Ouch! 

ANDREW PIERCE: Boris Johnson is every inch a hero to David Cameron’s rich pal


ANDREW PIERCE: Boris Johnson is every inch a hero to David Cameron’s rich pal

After refusing to sack Dominic Cummings for allegedly breaking lockdown rules, Boris Johnson appears to have lost the support of a number of disgruntled Tory MPs.

But at least he can find solace in having forged a new alliance with a powerful ally. For I can reveal that he has secured the surprising backing of billionaire property mogul Tony Gallagher.

Tory donor Gallagher’s patronage certainly comes with its perks. 

In 2016, when he was a keen supporter of David Cameron, he hosted the former Prime Minister’s 50th birthday party at his home, one of the grandest private properties in Britain: 17th-century Sarsden House, in Oxfordshire, which is set in 459 acres of land.

Boris Johnson has forged a new alliance with a powerful ally – he has secured the surprising backing of billionaire property mogul Tony Gallagher

While Boris is yet to receive such a generous offer, last month Gallagher did present him with an £800 silver ruler engraved with the name of every British Prime Minister, including Mr Johnson’s. 

Leader of the Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg, who argued successfully for the Virtual Parliament to end and MPs to return to Westminster this week, seems to have enjoyed his time at home. ‘I’m reading a book on the Black Death,’ he recently said. 

What better way to lift one’s spirits in these dark times?

News of such a lavish gift will no doubt leave Westminster watchers scratching their heads — not least because Gallagher was a staunch Remainer in the EU referendum and gave thousands to the cause.

But Gallagher tells me: ‘I think Boris is tremendous and is doing a good job in incredibly difficult circumstances.’

Asked which engraved name on the ruler was his favourite PM, Gallagher, whose similar gifts to David Cameron and Theresa May were put on display in the Cabinet Office, says: ‘Ah, good try, but you’re not getting me on that. 

They all have their strengths but I am a huge admirer of Boris.’

Last month, Tony Gallagher (pictured) did present the Prime Minister with an £800 silver ruler engraved with the name of every British Prime Minister, including Mr Johnson's

Last month, Tony Gallagher (pictured) did present the Prime Minister with an £800 silver ruler engraved with the name of every British Prime Minister, including Mr Johnson’s

Is that a Covid clanger, Nick? 

When BBC presenter Nick Robinson interviewed Tory MP John Penrose last week about Covid-19 in his local hospital in Weston-super-Mare, Robinson asked if the new Government test-and-trace scheme ‘run by a woman called Dido Harding’ would help.

Penrose replied: ‘As a matter of disclosure, Dido Harding is my wife.’

As a matter of disclosure, do you think Robinson blushed. 

In the delay before Dominic Cummings’s press conference last week, Tim Burgess, of rock band The Charlatans, tweeted: ‘If you were this late for a JobCentre interview, you’d lose your benefits.’

Five minutes later, Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy told her followers on social media: ‘If Dominic Cummings turned up this late to the JobCentre he’d be sanctioned.’ Her post garnered 65,000 ‘likes’.

Shall we be charitable and call that a cover version? 

Dominic Cummings has come under fire for driving 260 miles to Durham from London. The No.10 special adviser is pictured leaving his north London home on May 29

Dominic Cummings has come under fire for driving 260 miles to Durham from London. The No.10 special adviser is pictured leaving his north London home on May 29

No porkies: Parliament’s £3m meat bill

The pandemic may have left Parliament deserted but MPs will be relieved to learn that its opulent charms will still be there when calm is restored.

Indeed, it has just issued a tender for its supply of meat, poultry and game over the next four years, to the tune of £3 million — which is lip-smackingly good news for its canteen aficionados. But aren’t there enough porkies doing the rounds in Westminster?  

Joke of the week: This gag is doing the rounds among politicos: ‘Dominic Cummings is a golfing term. It’s a long drive that goes out of bounds but carries no penalty.’

Tory MP Douglas Ross, who resigned as a junior Scottish Office minister following Dominic Cummings’s trip to Barnard Castle, is a qualified professional football referee. 

Cue the inevitable riposte from Tory MPs: ‘He’s given himself a red card.’

New Tory MP Lee Anderson may only have been in the job for a matter of months, but that hasn’t stopped him sticking the boot in.

‘Seeing as Boris has said up to six people can meet outdoors, there is now a good chance the Lib Dem Conference can go ahead,’ the MP for Ashfield remarked. Ouch! 

DOMINIC LAWSON: At last, we’re showing backbone against thugs in Beijing over people of Hong Kong 


At last, our Government is displaying a backbone – and a sense of honour – in its dealings with the totalitarian Communist regime of Beijing.

Interviewed by the BBC’s Andrew Marr yesterday, the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab declared that unless the Chinese Communist Party revoked its decision last week to apply its own tyrannical and capricious ‘anti-subversion’ policies to the previously protected citizens of Hong Kong, we would extend (from six months to a year) UK visa rights to the territory’s 350,000 British National Overseas (BNO) passport holders.

And Raab did not rule out extending this to a further three million Hong Kong citizens who were born under British rule but who had let their BNO passports lapse. 

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab declared that unless China revoked its decision to apply its ‘anti-subversion’ policies to the previously protected citizens of Hong Kong, we would extend UK visa rights to the territory’s British National Overseas (BNO) passport holders

This, the Foreign Secretary told Marr, would create ‘a pathway to future British citizenship’ for some of the world’s most highly-educated and hard-working people.

It is the correct response to the way that Beijing has peremptorily trashed the guarantee in the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984, which had promised (under the mantra ‘one country, two systems’) that freedom of speech and assembly for Hong Kong residents would remain protected by an independent judiciary in the former colony after ‘handover’ in 1997.

Massacre

When this decision of China’s President-for-life Xi Jinping (rubber-stamped last week by the Chinese Congress) is imposed on Hong Kong, it will mean that anyone in the territory whom Beijing regards as subversive – that is, inconvenient – can be grabbed off the streets and carted off to the mainland to experience who knows what horrors at the hands of a regime which tortures and ‘disappears’ its astonishingly brave internal critics.

Zhao Lijian, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman – a charmer who has been promoting the line that Covid-19 had been unleashed on Wuhan by ‘the U.S. military’ – responded to Raab’s initiative by saying that Beijing ‘reserves the right to take corresponding countermeasures’ against the UK. 

Well, if China wants to offer Britons the right to apply for eventual citizenship there, I think we can live with that.

When this decision of China's President-for-life Xi Jinping (rubber-stamped last week by the Chinese Congress) is imposed on Hong Kong, it will mean that anyone in the territory whom Beijing regards as subversive - that is, inconvenient - can be grabbed off the streets

When this decision of China’s President-for-life Xi Jinping (rubber-stamped last week by the Chinese Congress) is imposed on Hong Kong, it will mean that anyone in the territory whom Beijing regards as subversive – that is, inconvenient – can be grabbed off the streets

Zhao also declared it was a breach of the UK’s obligations in the Joint Declaration to offer such rights to Hong Kong’s BNO Passport holders.

This is ripe: China has itself already declared that the Joint Declaration is a ‘historical document’ which ‘no longer has any practical significance’, and Zhao’s own ministry has brusquely observed that ‘it is not at all binding on the central government’s management over Hong Kong’.

Many of us could see this coming, long before Xi Jinping inaugurated a policy of reducing even the limited freedoms and independence of thought that previously existed on the mainland.

Our fears for the future of Hong Kong were galvanised by the Tiananmen Square massacre of June 1989, when thousands of unarmed (mostly young) people were slaughtered by the ‘People’s Liberation Army’. 

This demonstrated just what a Communist regime which continued to regard Stalin as beyond criticism was capable of doing.

And it’s worth reminding ourselves of the secret diplomatic cables of the then British Ambassador to China, Sir Alan Donald, which two and a half years ago were discovered in the UK national archives by Hong Kong journalists.

Zhao Lijian, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman responded to Raab's initiative by saying that Beijing 'reserves the right to take corresponding countermeasures' against the UK

Zhao Lijian, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, responded to Raab’s initiative by saying that Beijing ‘reserves the right to take corresponding countermeasures’ against the UK

Sir Alan reported to London that ‘Army APCs [armoured personnel carriers] opened fire on the crowd before running over them. APCs ran over . . . civilians at 65kph. 

Students linked arms but were mown down. APCs then ran over bodies time and time again to make ‘pie’, and remains collected by bulldozer . . . Remains incinerated and then hosed down drains.’

Sir Alan’s cable went on: ‘Wounded girl students begged for their lives but were bayoneted . . . 1,000 survivors were told they could escape but were then mown down by specially prepared MG [machine gun] positions.’

The final sentence of his cable read: ‘Minimum estimate of civilian dead 10,000.’

At the time of the tragedy, I was deputy editor of the Spectator magazine: we mounted a campaign to persuade the prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, to immediately offer a right of UK citizenship to the more than three million Hong Kong holders of BNO passports. 

The Spectator’s editor then, Charles Moore, was one of Mrs Thatcher’s favourite journalists (she later approved him as her biographer).

But our campaign failed, although Thatcher was initially sympathetic to the idea of at least taking in around 250,000 applicants, not just because of her horror at what had happened but because she saw the highly aspirational and hard-working Hong Kong citizens as exemplars.

At the time of the Tiananmen Square massacre of June 1989, the Spectator magazine mounted a campaign to persuade the prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, to offer a right of UK citizenship to the more than three million Hong Kong holders of BNO passports

At the time of the Tiananmen Square massacre of June 1989, the Spectator magazine mounted a campaign to persuade the prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, to offer a right of UK citizenship to the more than three million Hong Kong holders of BNO passports

Norman Tebbit (pictured with Jan Bevan at Men Of The Year 1989 Awards) led a vehement backbench counter-campaign, arguing that keeping the party's pledge of 'no further large-scale immigration' was much more important

Norman Tebbit (pictured with Jan Bevan at Men Of The Year 1989 Awards) led a vehement backbench counter-campaign, arguing that keeping the party’s pledge of ‘no further large-scale immigration’ was much more important

Revolt

However, Norman Tebbit, the former Conservative Party chairman, led a vehement backbench counter-campaign, arguing that keeping the party’s pledge of ‘no further large-scale immigration’ was much more important than the PM’s concern about the future of Hong Kong’s BNO passport holders.

The revolt of about 100 Tory MPs, cynically backed by the Labour opposition (on the grounds that such an offer to ‘wealthy’ Hong Kong citizens would be ‘elitist’) threatened to exceed the government’s majority in Parliament. Facing defeat, Thatcher conceded to Tebbit.

The Spectator published a leading article reminding the PM that before negotiating the settlement with China in 1984, she declared: ‘I shall speak not only for Britain but for Britain’s moral responsibility and duty to the people of Hong Kong.’

We observed: ‘If she does not, if three and half million people are to be abandoned, she will have presided over something worse than [Neville Chamberlain’s] betrayal of Czechoslovakia in 1938 . . . worse, because our responsibility is more absolute.’

The secret diplomatic cables of the then British Ambassador to China, Sir Alan Donald (pictured right with Hong Kong Governor Sir David Wilson), were discovered two and a half years ago in the UK national archives by Hong Kong journalists

The secret diplomatic cables of the then British Ambassador to China, Sir Alan Donald (pictured right with Hong Kong Governor Sir David Wilson), were discovered two and a half years ago in the UK national archives by Hong Kong journalists

As I say, Tebbit’s backbench revolt succeeded and Mrs Thatcher closed the escape hatch for the citizens of the colony (which unlike our other colonies, and for obvious reasons, never had the choice of independence).

But what does Lord Tebbit – as he is now – say today? Last November, in the wake of the Beijing-mandated crackdown in Hong Kong, he was one of 179 parliamentarians who signed a letter to Boris Johnson, calling on the PM to change the status of Hong Kong’s BNO passport holders ‘to make it easier for them to move to the UK’.

Courageous

The letter described not extending those rights sooner as ‘an historic error’. It added that ‘the one country two systems settlement is on the brink. 

By increasing the rights of BNO passport holders, we can not only correct this historic error, but also we can provide the support that these British nationals in Hong Kong vitally need.’

It was courageous of Lord Tebbit – a brave man in his personal life, too – to admit the error in what he had done over 30 years ago. Tebbit is also a long-standing Brexit supporter, convinced that EU free movement had led to unsustainably high levels of uncontrolled migration into the UK.

Interestingly, the current cabinet member whose politics most closely resemble those of Norman Tebbit, Priti Patel, is also passionately in favour of extending rights to the Hong Kong BNO passport holders

Interestingly, the current cabinet member whose politics most closely resemble those of Norman Tebbit, Priti Patel, is also passionately in favour of extending rights to the Hong Kong BNO passport holders

However, he appreciates the particular moral obligations we now have in respect of the people of Hong Kong. And, like his former boss Mrs Thatcher, is vividly aware of the prosperity which could be brought by such an entrepreneurial people (Hong Kong’s average personal income dwarfs that of the former Eastern Europe).

Interestingly, the current cabinet member whose politics most closely resemble those of Norman Tebbit, Priti Patel, is also passionately in favour of extending rights to the Hong Kong BNO passport holders.

Indeed, she has been arguing in cabinet for such a policy for months. As Dominic Raab pointed out yesterday, Patel’s parents were among those Ugandan Asians to whom we offered a home after they were threatened by the odious Idi Amin; and Raab’s own father was a Czech Jew taken in by this country after the Nazi regime occupied his homeland.

To Marr’s obvious question -can we really offer the possibility of refuge to as many as three million Hong Kong BNO passport holders? – Raab said it was inconceivable that more than a small minority of them would up sticks and come to the UK, and that the visa extension would be for a year, not, at this stage, indefinite.

But above all, he said: ‘It is a point of principle. If China revokes the freedoms guaranteed to Hong Kong by the treaty we jointly signed, we will not evade our responsibilities.’

Those are the words some of us hoped to hear more than 30 years ago.

DOMINIC LAWSON: At last, we’re showing backbone against thugs in Beijing over people of Hong Kong 


At last, our Government is displaying a backbone – and a sense of honour – in its dealings with the totalitarian Communist regime of Beijing.

Interviewed by the BBC’s Andrew Marr yesterday, the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab declared that unless the Chinese Communist Party revoked its decision last week to apply its own tyrannical and capricious ‘anti-subversion’ policies to the previously protected citizens of Hong Kong, we would extend (from six months to a year) UK visa rights to the territory’s 350,000 British National Overseas (BNO) passport holders.

And Raab did not rule out extending this to a further three million Hong Kong citizens who were born under British rule but who had let their BNO passports lapse. 

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab declared that unless China revoked its decision to apply its ‘anti-subversion’ policies to the previously protected citizens of Hong Kong, we would extend UK visa rights to the territory’s British National Overseas (BNO) passport holders

This, the Foreign Secretary told Marr, would create ‘a pathway to future British citizenship’ for some of the world’s most highly-educated and hard-working people.

It is the correct response to the way that Beijing has peremptorily trashed the guarantee in the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984, which had promised (under the mantra ‘one country, two systems’) that freedom of speech and assembly for Hong Kong residents would remain protected by an independent judiciary in the former colony after ‘handover’ in 1997.

Massacre

When this decision of China’s President-for-life Xi Jinping (rubber-stamped last week by the Chinese Congress) is imposed on Hong Kong, it will mean that anyone in the territory whom Beijing regards as subversive – that is, inconvenient – can be grabbed off the streets and carted off to the mainland to experience who knows what horrors at the hands of a regime which tortures and ‘disappears’ its astonishingly brave internal critics.

Zhao Lijian, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman – a charmer who has been promoting the line that Covid-19 had been unleashed on Wuhan by ‘the U.S. military’ – responded to Raab’s initiative by saying that Beijing ‘reserves the right to take corresponding countermeasures’ against the UK. 

Well, if China wants to offer Britons the right to apply for eventual citizenship there, I think we can live with that.

When this decision of China's President-for-life Xi Jinping (rubber-stamped last week by the Chinese Congress) is imposed on Hong Kong, it will mean that anyone in the territory whom Beijing regards as subversive - that is, inconvenient - can be grabbed off the streets

When this decision of China’s President-for-life Xi Jinping (rubber-stamped last week by the Chinese Congress) is imposed on Hong Kong, it will mean that anyone in the territory whom Beijing regards as subversive – that is, inconvenient – can be grabbed off the streets

Zhao also declared it was a breach of the UK’s obligations in the Joint Declaration to offer such rights to Hong Kong’s BNO Passport holders.

This is ripe: China has itself already declared that the Joint Declaration is a ‘historical document’ which ‘no longer has any practical significance’, and Zhao’s own ministry has brusquely observed that ‘it is not at all binding on the central government’s management over Hong Kong’.

Many of us could see this coming, long before Xi Jinping inaugurated a policy of reducing even the limited freedoms and independence of thought that previously existed on the mainland.

Our fears for the future of Hong Kong were galvanised by the Tiananmen Square massacre of June 1989, when thousands of unarmed (mostly young) people were slaughtered by the ‘People’s Liberation Army’. 

This demonstrated just what a Communist regime which continued to regard Stalin as beyond criticism was capable of doing.

And it’s worth reminding ourselves of the secret diplomatic cables of the then British Ambassador to China, Sir Alan Donald, which two and a half years ago were discovered in the UK national archives by Hong Kong journalists.

Zhao Lijian, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman responded to Raab's initiative by saying that Beijing 'reserves the right to take corresponding countermeasures' against the UK

Zhao Lijian, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, responded to Raab’s initiative by saying that Beijing ‘reserves the right to take corresponding countermeasures’ against the UK

Sir Alan reported to London that ‘Army APCs [armoured personnel carriers] opened fire on the crowd before running over them. APCs ran over . . . civilians at 65kph. 

Students linked arms but were mown down. APCs then ran over bodies time and time again to make ‘pie’, and remains collected by bulldozer . . . Remains incinerated and then hosed down drains.’

Sir Alan’s cable went on: ‘Wounded girl students begged for their lives but were bayoneted . . . 1,000 survivors were told they could escape but were then mown down by specially prepared MG [machine gun] positions.’

The final sentence of his cable read: ‘Minimum estimate of civilian dead 10,000.’

At the time of the tragedy, I was deputy editor of the Spectator magazine: we mounted a campaign to persuade the prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, to immediately offer a right of UK citizenship to the more than three million Hong Kong holders of BNO passports. 

The Spectator’s editor then, Charles Moore, was one of Mrs Thatcher’s favourite journalists (she later approved him as her biographer).

But our campaign failed, although Thatcher was initially sympathetic to the idea of at least taking in around 250,000 applicants, not just because of her horror at what had happened but because she saw the highly aspirational and hard-working Hong Kong citizens as exemplars.

At the time of the Tiananmen Square massacre of June 1989, the Spectator magazine mounted a campaign to persuade the prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, to offer a right of UK citizenship to the more than three million Hong Kong holders of BNO passports

At the time of the Tiananmen Square massacre of June 1989, the Spectator magazine mounted a campaign to persuade the prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, to offer a right of UK citizenship to the more than three million Hong Kong holders of BNO passports

Norman Tebbit (pictured with Jan Bevan at Men Of The Year 1989 Awards) led a vehement backbench counter-campaign, arguing that keeping the party's pledge of 'no further large-scale immigration' was much more important

Norman Tebbit (pictured with Jan Bevan at Men Of The Year 1989 Awards) led a vehement backbench counter-campaign, arguing that keeping the party’s pledge of ‘no further large-scale immigration’ was much more important

Revolt

However, Norman Tebbit, the former Conservative Party chairman, led a vehement backbench counter-campaign, arguing that keeping the party’s pledge of ‘no further large-scale immigration’ was much more important than the PM’s concern about the future of Hong Kong’s BNO passport holders.

The revolt of about 100 Tory MPs, cynically backed by the Labour opposition (on the grounds that such an offer to ‘wealthy’ Hong Kong citizens would be ‘elitist’) threatened to exceed the government’s majority in Parliament. Facing defeat, Thatcher conceded to Tebbit.

The Spectator published a leading article reminding the PM that before negotiating the settlement with China in 1984, she declared: ‘I shall speak not only for Britain but for Britain’s moral responsibility and duty to the people of Hong Kong.’

We observed: ‘If she does not, if three and half million people are to be abandoned, she will have presided over something worse than [Neville Chamberlain’s] betrayal of Czechoslovakia in 1938 . . . worse, because our responsibility is more absolute.’

The secret diplomatic cables of the then British Ambassador to China, Sir Alan Donald (pictured right with Hong Kong Governor Sir David Wilson), were discovered two and a half years ago in the UK national archives by Hong Kong journalists

The secret diplomatic cables of the then British Ambassador to China, Sir Alan Donald (pictured right with Hong Kong Governor Sir David Wilson), were discovered two and a half years ago in the UK national archives by Hong Kong journalists

As I say, Tebbit’s backbench revolt succeeded and Mrs Thatcher closed the escape hatch for the citizens of the colony (which unlike our other colonies, and for obvious reasons, never had the choice of independence).

But what does Lord Tebbit – as he is now – say today? Last November, in the wake of the Beijing-mandated crackdown in Hong Kong, he was one of 179 parliamentarians who signed a letter to Boris Johnson, calling on the PM to change the status of Hong Kong’s BNO passport holders ‘to make it easier for them to move to the UK’.

Courageous

The letter described not extending those rights sooner as ‘an historic error’. It added that ‘the one country two systems settlement is on the brink. 

By increasing the rights of BNO passport holders, we can not only correct this historic error, but also we can provide the support that these British nationals in Hong Kong vitally need.’

It was courageous of Lord Tebbit – a brave man in his personal life, too – to admit the error in what he had done over 30 years ago. Tebbit is also a long-standing Brexit supporter, convinced that EU free movement had led to unsustainably high levels of uncontrolled migration into the UK.

Interestingly, the current cabinet member whose politics most closely resemble those of Norman Tebbit, Priti Patel, is also passionately in favour of extending rights to the Hong Kong BNO passport holders

Interestingly, the current cabinet member whose politics most closely resemble those of Norman Tebbit, Priti Patel, is also passionately in favour of extending rights to the Hong Kong BNO passport holders

However, he appreciates the particular moral obligations we now have in respect of the people of Hong Kong. And, like his former boss Mrs Thatcher, is vividly aware of the prosperity which could be brought by such an entrepreneurial people (Hong Kong’s average personal income dwarfs that of the former Eastern Europe).

Interestingly, the current cabinet member whose politics most closely resemble those of Norman Tebbit, Priti Patel, is also passionately in favour of extending rights to the Hong Kong BNO passport holders.

Indeed, she has been arguing in cabinet for such a policy for months. As Dominic Raab pointed out yesterday, Patel’s parents were among those Ugandan Asians to whom we offered a home after they were threatened by the odious Idi Amin; and Raab’s own father was a Czech Jew taken in by this country after the Nazi regime occupied his homeland.

To Marr’s obvious question -can we really offer the possibility of refuge to as many as three million Hong Kong BNO passport holders? – Raab said it was inconceivable that more than a small minority of them would up sticks and come to the UK, and that the visa extension would be for a year, not, at this stage, indefinite.

But above all, he said: ‘It is a point of principle. If China revokes the freedoms guaranteed to Hong Kong by the treaty we jointly signed, we will not evade our responsibilities.’

Those are the words some of us hoped to hear more than 30 years ago.

Former Chancellor NORMAN LAMONT: Ditch the two-metre rule to rescue our economy


Today the headlines focus on coronavirus, but that will soon change. In six months’ time, I fear they will be about jobs and employment. And they will make for grim reading.

In the United States, unemployment as a result of the virus has risen to between 15 and 20 per cent of the workforce: That’s at least 22million jobless – perhaps as many as 30million. It’s an economic catastrophe threatening to dwarf even the spectre of the Great Depression.

Right now the unemployment figures are much lower in Europe and the UK, but that is only because around 40million Europeans are in furlough schemes.

Social distancing strictures affect many industries as the two-metre restriction makes it almost impossible to use public transport. Without it, firms in all sectors won’t survive as their staff can’t get to work. Shoppers are pictured lining up outside a supermarket in Leicester

Already it is being mooted that Rishi Sunak is working on an emergency Budget to save two million jobs. Such an undertaking will no doubt prove immensely tricky and, as a former Chancellor, I don’t envy him. 

To avoid devastating mass unemployment, the single most important measure we must take – as soon as possible – is to reduce the two-metre social distancing rule to one metre.

More importantly, in the not-too-distant future we should abolish social distancing completely. To hear Home Secretary Priti Patel suggest last month that it is here to stay was alarming and unlikely to be feasible.

I recognise that the Government faces an agonising decision over whether to lift restrictions and risk a second spike of coronavirus deaths. 

But the longer the lockdown lasts, the greater the economic damage will be – and the more difficult the choice to end it. It appears probable the Bank of England, in the scenario its Governor Andrew Bailey revealed recently, has been too optimistic.

To avoid devastating mass unemployment, the single most important measure we must take – as soon as possible – is to reduce the two-metre social distancing rule to one metre. A social distancing sign is pictured in Tesco

To avoid devastating mass unemployment, the single most important measure we must take – as soon as possible – is to reduce the two-metre social distancing rule to one metre. A social distancing sign is pictured in Tesco

There will be no fast recovery, and we are either at or very near the place where the benefits of lockdown are outweighed by the costs to the economy and other health risks: From domestic violence to depression, other mental illness and alcoholism, as well as complications in ailments where tests and treatment have been dangerously postponed.

Meanwhile, the Government claims it has been following ‘the science’ – but these are political decisions. And so it must face up to the inherent, fundamental conflict between a policy of social distancing and the need to protect a massive number of jobs.

Social distancing strictures affect many industries as the two-metre restriction makes it almost impossible to use public transport. Without it, firms in all sectors won’t survive as their staff can’t get to work. 

The hospitality industry is where a lot of people work, earn and spend money that ripples through the economy.

According to the British Beer and Pub Association, only 20 to 30 per cent of premises will be able to open at a sustainable level – not breaking even but managing to keep the doors open. A boarded up and temporarily closed pub is pictured above

According to the British Beer and Pub Association, only 20 to 30 per cent of premises will be able to open at a sustainable level – not breaking even but managing to keep the doors open. A boarded up and temporarily closed pub is pictured above

It is also the largest private sector employer, with 3.2million people working in it, 2.7million of whom are currently furloughed. 

In employment terms it is bigger than the financial services industry or the automotive, aerospace and pharmaceutical industries combined.

But it is impossible to imagine how hospitality can work with rigid social distancing. Where people are kept two metres apart, many businesses will lose about 60 per cent of their capacity. 

According to the British Beer and Pub Association, only 20 to 30 per cent of premises will be able to open at a sustainable level – not breaking even but managing to keep the doors open.

Reducing the distance to 1.5 metres raises this level to 50 per cent of businesses; at one metre, it hits 70 per cent.

A lot of the Government’s scientific advisers are nervous, saying it is risky to be relaxing the rules. 

I am not for one minute suggesting their advice should be ignored or automatically overridden.

But the onus is on the advisers to explain why it is that, while Britons must stay two metres apart, the World Health Organisation recommends one metre – as do many other European countries, acting on their scientists’ advice.

Already it is being mooted that Rishi Sunak is working on an emergency Budget to save two million jobs. Such an undertaking will no doubt prove immensely tricky and, as a former Chancellor, I don't envy him

Already it is being mooted that Rishi Sunak is working on an emergency Budget to save two million jobs. Such an undertaking will no doubt prove immensely tricky and, as a former Chancellor, I don’t envy him

Professor Robert Dingwall of Nottingham Trent University, an adviser to the Government, is one of those who questions the two-metre rule. 

He suggested the distance is based on ‘fragile evidence’, and was imposed as the Government thought the public couldn’t be trusted to obey a one-metre rule. The distance was doubled as a precautionary principle.

Lockdown cannot defeat the virus – it can only slow it or suppress it to buy time for a vaccine to be developed. Likewise, monetary and fiscal policy can achieve very little when the Government has closed down large parts of the economy.

The longer the lockdown lasts, the more dire the economic prospects become, and the tougher the choices for the Government will be. We must face up to it now.

SUE REID: A truly terrible toll for those left to suffer in silence at home 


Patients with cancer, heart problems and other life-threatening ailments are feared to have died at home as the NHS turned its focus to the pandemic.

Alarmingly, delays in cancer surgery alone will cost more lives than the number of virus patients saved in hospitals, predicts Britain’s Institute of Cancer Research, one of the world’s most-respected health bodies.

The wake-up call, in an Institute report, warns a three-month delay in operations on the most common adult cancers risks 5,000 extra deaths. A six-month delay would push those excess fatalities up to 11,000.

The NHS waiting list already stretches to many millions and now faces one of the steepest backlog of cases in its history. The British Medical Association says that for doctors and all healthcare workers, this is a daunting prospect [File photo]

The disturbing report follows shocking new figures released by Cancer Research UK that more than two million patients have missed out on vital cancer tests and treatment during the pandemic.

Last week, Macmillan Cancer Support warned that nearly 2,000 cases of cancer are going undiagnosed every week due to the crisis.

The Mail revealed the unfolding tragedy of untreated patients last month. By the end of April, just a few weeks after the NHS switched its attention to Covid-19 sufferers, hospital referrals for cancer treatment in England had dropped by nearly 70 per cent.

Under 100 organ transplants were carried out in April, the lowest for 36 years, according to NHS figures. On a day in April, only six of its 24 liver transplant centres were open.

Professor Peter Friend, director of the Oxford Transplant Centre, says that liver, kidney, and heart patients were already dying on lengthy waiting lists before the pandemic. ‘The effect of doing fewer transplants means that this mortality rate must increase,’ he has warned.

The ordinary public seems to think that hospitals are dangerous places to be right now. One allergy specialist told the Mail that in his north of England clinic, only the most seriously ill risk being infected by the virus [File photo]

The ordinary public seems to think that hospitals are dangerous places to be right now. One allergy specialist told the Mail that in his north of England clinic, only the most seriously ill risk being infected by the virus [File photo]

Cardiac specialists have reported a 60 per cent decline in hospital admissions for heart attacks, a condition which the NHS says requires ‘immediate’ treatment in casualty.

Meanwhile, a death certificate count by the Office for National Statistics shows almost 13,000 more people than expected have died in England and Wales since mid-March from causes other than coronavirus.

Statisticians at Oxford and Cambridge are now calling for a national inquiry into the extra deaths amid fears that a lack of medical care is responsible.

Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, chairman of the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication at the University of Cambridge, explained: ‘There’s a huge spike in non-Covid deaths at home very quickly into the epidemic.

‘It’s important to know how many might have been at least delayed if the normal (NHS) healthcare system had existed.’ Visits to England’s accident and emergency departments have halved since the outbreak, tumbling to the lowest since records began.

It means people displaying the early signs of serious diseases have stayed away in their thousands. A nurse and Mail reader has sent us reports with photos showing how many people were at four main casualty departments on a recent Monday afternoon.

The waiting rooms at the finest flagship hospitals in London – Chelsea and Westminster, St Thomas’ in Westminster, St Mary’s Paddington and the Royal London in the East End – had just a handful of patients.

It suggests people are afraid of going to casualty in case they break lockdown rules or catch the virus while there. The ordinary public seems to think that hospitals are dangerous places to be right now.

The wake-up call, in an Institute report, warns a three-month delay in operations on the most common adult cancers risks 5,000 extra deaths. A six-month delay would push those excess fatalities up to 11,000 [File photo]

The wake-up call, in an Institute report, warns a three-month delay in operations on the most common adult cancers risks 5,000 extra deaths. A six-month delay would push those excess fatalities up to 11,000 [File photo]

One allergy specialist told the Mail that in his north of England clinic, only the most seriously ill risk being infected by the virus.

‘These are people who are desperate for help. They will take a risk. Others are afraid of coming to my clinic and could lose their lives because of that.’

NHS England has produced a complex ‘road map’ for opening up hospitals to all patients. Those accepted for treatment or operations will have to isolate for 14 days and be clear of any symptoms before admission. Inevitably it will mean more delays.

Significantly, there will be tests on patients before they arrive to make sure they are Covid-19 free to ‘protect’ others working and being cared for in the hospitals.

But when the virus is defeated, children are back to school, shops reopened, and cities no longer in lockdown, what will happen to the countless numbers who are seriously ill and whose treatment has been delayed?

The NHS waiting list already stretches to many millions and now faces one of the steepest backlog of cases in its history.

The British Medical Association says that for doctors and all healthcare workers, this is a daunting prospect. 

A spokesman said: ‘They want nothing more than to provide the best care for their patients and avoid delays in essential treatment for diseases.’

One has to wonder whether the doctors’ goodwill will really be enough.

A week of hypocrisy and spite in which the liberal elite proved they STILL won’t accept Brexit


Britain’s smooth and complacent Left-wing elite are so completely convinced of their goodness and rightness that they think they are licensed to behave like louts. 

The behaviour of this group over the past few days has been a masterpiece of hypocrisy, spite and crudity.

Their quarry has been Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister’s principal adviser. The Left loathe Mr Cummings for a simple, furious reason. He knows how to beat them. 

It was Mr Cummings’s political genius that secured victory for Brexit, and again for Boris Johnson, in the December Election.

The Left’s quarry has been Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister’s principal adviser. They loathe Mr Cummings for a simple, furious reason. He knows how to beat them

They simply cannot forgive him for this. They fear that Mr Cummings will beat them again if he stays in his position, and so they will do almost anything to secure his removal.

They are themselves highly skilled at the dark arts of politics. Some would say they are far more skilled than Mr Cummings, because they are prepared to break rules he would never breach. 

Others might say this is not skill but old-fashioned Leninist ruthlessness, in which no holds are barred and the truth is unimportant.

The prominent role of Alastair Campbell among Mr Cummings’s attackers tells us much. 

Mr Campbell was even more powerful in Tony Blair’s Downing Street than Mr Cummings is in Mr Johnson’s No 10.

He operated as a formidable political commissar. But above all he was in charge of the ‘Dodgy Dossier’ and the ruthless manipulation of public opinion that cajoled this country into the wholly mistaken Iraq War, a catastrophe that ought to have ended his career for ever.

But the attack on Mr Cummings, who has learned how to woo working class votes away from Labour, is so frantic and enraged that its supporters do not care how low they sink, or how discredited their allies may be.

And they sink very low. The Mail on Sunday reports today in detail on the falsehoods told about Mr Cummings, by individuals and by some media, which repeated them without confirming them. 

We accept that millions of people are quite reasonably becoming tired of abiding by irksome rules. 

But that is simply not a reason to demand the sacking of Mr Cummings for doing what any parent’s instincts would have told them to do.

There is another grim aspect to the events of the past week. Normal politics in this country is supposed to be forthright, with plenty of rough and tumble. 

Nobody would want it otherwise. But in this case a level of personal malice and implied violence has been called into being that is positively dangerous to the safety of the state and the future of free democracy.

One example of this is the repellent tweet sent to Sarah Vine, wife of Cabinet Minister Michael Gove and columnist for our sister paper the Daily Mail. 

This message was so violent and abusive that its author has now accepted a police caution, not that this begins to cancel out the shame of such behaviour. 

The culprit has – unsurprisingly – worked in the past for The Guardian and Daily Mirror, both newspapers in the forefront of the hounding of Mr Cummings.

Another example is the snarling mob that gathered outside Mr Cummings’s London home. 

Some of the individuals involved in the display of foul-worded placards and the yelling of crude abuse turn out – unsurprisingly – to have connections with the theoretically impartial BBC.

Some on the Left, to their credit, have criticised this unpleasant development. 

One witness who reported Cummings, teacher Robin Lees (pictured), drove 250 miles himself to collect his daughter despite the lockdown regulations

One witness who reported Cummings, teacher Robin Lees (pictured), drove 250 miles himself to collect his daughter despite the lockdown regulations 

Marina Hyde, a columnist for The Guardian, described scenes outside Mr Cummings’s home as ‘distinctly disturbing when set alongside his account of his family’s house having become a target for threats of violence’. She added correctly: ‘This is never right.’

But others, notably Shadow International Trade Secretary Emily Thornberry, Mr Cummings’s local MP, daughter of a diplomat and married to a distinguished judge, appeared to support the siege of Mr Cummings’s home, saying ‘The people of Islington South and Finsbury can always be relied on to say it as it is.’ 

This is extraordinary language from someone who aspires to high office. What would the Left have said if one of their own major figures had been the target of the sort of abuse directed against Mr Cummings?

The outrage would have been beyond ballistic.

Ms Thornberry is far from the only major public figure to pile on to Mr Cummings in public, long before the full facts made it clear that the Downing Street adviser and his wife were in fact extremely worried about the welfare of their small child, and trying to act for the good of that child.

Bishops, MPs, and of course media celebrities, were quick to join in the attack, but not so quick to regret their initial fury when it turned out that the story was more complicated than they had at first imagined.

Perhaps most astonishing of all was the extraordinary accusatory verbal assault – effectively a party political broadcast – made on Mr Cummings and the Prime Minister by Emily Maitlis, the presenter of BBC2’s flagship programme Newsnight.

Editorialising of this sort is clearly forbidden under the Charter and Agreement that the BBC acceded to in return for the licence fee. 

This fee does not just pay Ms Maitlis’s £260,000 salary, but also for every girder, brick, cable, camera and microphone in the vast and costly new building from which Newsnight is transmitted.

How could they have forgotten this? How was it that nobody in the editorial structure of the BBC acted to prevent this grotesque breach of the known rules?

The answer almost certainly lies in the great pretence that the British liberal establishment have accepted the verdict of the people in the EU referendum. 

Some of them may truly have done so. The vendetta against Mr Cummings shows that many plainly have not. 

Another man who claimed to have spotted Cummings breaking the rules, Tim Matthews (pictured) revealed he made up his tale of events as a joke

Another man who claimed to have spotted Cummings breaking the rules, Tim Matthews (pictured) revealed he made up his tale of events as a joke 

They watch and wait for any opportunity to prevent the UK’s final departure from Brussels rule. 

They see Mr Cummings as the keystone of Brexit, and believe that if they can dislodge him, the Government might yet be manoeuvred into a delay that could be turned into a reversal of the referendum. 

They want a counter-revolution. They thought this was their chance.

But the Prime Minister quite rightly refused to be bullied into sacking his friend and ally. 

Mr Cummings, with considerable personal bravery, confronted and faced down his media attackers (some of them more or less enraged).

He explained calmly and patiently what everyone now knows, that he and his wife were acting for the best interests of their young son. 

At the end of all the frenzy, Durham Police, who have not covered themselves in glory in this affair, confirmed that the main charge against him was empty and the second one was minor.

Politics is a rough game and in general there is not much point complaining about it. But the events of the past few days went well beyond Queensberry Rules. 

This was not a fair fight, but an attempted mugging. Thanks to some very tough resistance, it failed. Let us hope that those involved have learned their lesson.