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Today’s breaking news is that Boris Johnson’s mistress, Carrie Symonds, has just given birth to a baby boy, the latest of his still undetermined number of children. Despite finding time to brag about the birth on ITV this morning, it was announced just in time for him to conveniently dodge his obligation to attend Prime Minister’s Questions. Early speculation regarding the likelihood of Boris not making an appearance at PMQs had already been mentioned for health reasons. Although, due to the new video connections, he would not necessarily have needed to be present in the chamber, we fully expected him to at least make an effort to check in by video link. Now, the BBC are bending over backwards to cover for him as if we were not dealing with the most serious national crisis in my lifetime: no, it was a real priority for him to ditch scrutiny, while deserting mother and baby, to put in a TV appearance!
The baby was not expected quite so soon, but arrived in the early hours of the morning with Boris Johnson present for the birth. If he had the opportunity to be there for the birth of his baby and still fitted in a TV interview, why couldn’t he pay attention to his duty to the British public during this time of crisis? This wasn’t even a consideration for our totally shameless “part-time Prime Minister” who is counting on the reluctance of any politician to dare criticizing the PM for bailing on responsibility yet again. Johnson, who has fanciful aspirations of being considered a Churchillian hero, should reflect on whether Churchill himself would have evaded debate in the chamber during World War II for a domestic call to coo over the recent birth of a baby. Now the media are floating the idea of Boris taking paternity leave, testing the public reaction to the PM vacating his public duties for an even longer period.
Ian Duncan Smith was interviewed by Victoria Derbyshire over his reaction to the sudden early arrival of Boris Johnson’s baby. His effusive praise and joy at the event was well over the top, like the entire country was hanging on this news as the most important event of the year. Wonderful news of “renewal and change;” no nappy changing and no change for the working poor subsisting on Universal Credit! Duncan Smith’s gushing statements about this “fantastic message of hope” made the arrival of Boris Johnson’s baby sound like the second coming. Political leaders are sending their obligatory congratulations while many must be seriously worried that this will provide an awkward distraction and an excuse for yet more skiving from our lazy part–time Prime Minister.
Egged on by the BBC who are now soliciting solid justification for Johnson to take more time off for parental leave, one Tory MP commented that they wouldn’t begrudge him taking extra time out. They went into overdrive to make a big deal of the birth and instil the impression that this personal joyous event for the PM, must lighten the mood for everyone during the grim times we all face. The BBC are seriously delusional if they don’t get it that most of us have very little to rejoice right now; a baby at number ten offers nothing to those desperate for pragmatic planning to support the most vulnerable impacted by the Covid 19 crisis. People are out of work, worried if there will be a job to return to, worried about feeding their families, worried about eviction, worried about the danger of their job caring for Covid patients without proper PPE, but such concerns will evaporate because Boris has a baby!
Norman Smith commented that Keir Starmer would need to modify his approach today at PMQs, “he should go easy on the PM as obviously he could not go hard on the attack.” Really, was this a warning that any opposition MP who dares to provide due scrutiny during PMQs today will face criticism from the BBC? This is another media trap: we must adhere to this period of mandatory adulation for Britain’s most prominent dead-beat dad, a man who refuses to even admit how many children he has irresponsibly fathered! Scrutiny will not be tolerated by the media. Who will have the courage to ask tough questions and raise the criticism Boris Johnson and his incompetent team of Tory MPs so richly deserve?
The second semi-virtual PMQs got under way with Dominic Raab deputising for our missing-in-inaction PM; this time the excuse being that his girlfriend had given birth early this morning and a TV interview was a lot more important that the chaotic state of the Tory Government’s handling of this crisis or facing scrutiny over the ongoing disaster. After the congratulation bucket had done the rounds the session got under way and thankfully the miracle of birth was not raised by every questioner, only a few during PMQs. There was a concern over the need to resume urgent and even elective surgery cases raised by the first questioner; a fair point considering the frequent boasts of vast numbers of “spare” critical care beds the Government has liberated by focusing on high-end equipment while thoroughly neglecting the basics like PPE. Raab conceded the need to return to normal NHS functioning..
After congratulating the PM on the birth of his latest son Raab responded to Starmer’s PMQ demand of last week by accounting for some of the deaths of NHS and Care staff, but his claim of just 85 NHS deaths and 23 Care staff fell short of claims elsewhere that put the current total over 140. The Tory Government is still leaning heavily on their support for public gestures like the one minute silence of remembrance for the heroes who died caring for Covid 19 patients; like the clapping for carers, it all detracts from any Tory responsibility for the carnage and normalizes dying on the job due to negligent safety standards. He also wished Captain Tom Moore a Happy one hundredth birthday for tomorrow after the veteran raised 29 million pound for the NHS: his determined personal effort has really put the UK Government to shame!
Keir Starmer made sure to congratulate the cowardly, lying, toad over his baby despite any resentment he may have felt that yet another excuse prevented our “part-time Prime Minister” from facing scrutiny again. Forget the baby “coo” factor, this was not the time to let the entire Tory Government off the hook regarding their shambolic handling of Covid 19. Starmer raised the crucial death toll numbers saying that the Chief Medical Officer had said he hoped we could keep the overall number of deaths to below 20,000; he said that would be good, meaning successful under the circumstances. We are clearly way above that number, only part way through this crisis and possibly on track to have one of the worst death rates in Europe. With a subtle dig at Boris Johnson’s self-congratulatory speech where he said that “many were looking at the comparative success of the United Kingdom,” Starmer asked for agreement that “far from success these latest figures are truly dreadful?”
Raab defensively claimed that this explicit rendition of the truth was “not fair;” it was too early to make cross country comparisons. He digressed by suggest that it was irresponsible to pre-empt the advice of SAGE on ending the lockdown which was not actually part of Starmer’s first question. Starmer corrected him, not to be diverted from his second question that the incidents of infection and deaths were not going down in Care Homes they were rising; there was real anxiety in Care Homes over access to testing and the limited supply of PPE and the Government’s response was too slow: why were there so many Care Home deaths?
Raab feigned making good progress, hyped up the challenges in Care Homes as they were decentralized and then blamed the ebb and flow of family and staff as if it were all their fault, despite their own strictly imposed controls, abysmal Government support and lack of resources! His next pitch was that they were expanding the workforce, recruiting more carers, presumably to replace those who quit out of fear or died despite their best efforts to care for and protect the vulnerable. One has to wonder what the job ad would look like: A challenging job caring for the disabled, elderly and dying. No benefits or holidays are provided, below minimum wage pay on a zero hours contract with no pay for travel time on home visits. Your health and safety is no concern of ours, so why not risk your life by joining the abandoned frontline cannon fodder supporting the Tory Government’s “Holocaust of Care!”
Starmer emphasized that Care Home deaths were not falling despite a claim on the Marr program to the contrary. We just had a moments silence in memory of the dead. It is ten weeks since the Health Secretary declared that there was an imminent threat to life; you would hope that by now things would be getting better not worse. A survey at the Royal College of Physicians published on Monday reported that one in four Doctors are still not getting the protective equipment that they need. The RCP President was quoted: “it is truly terrible that PPE supply has worsened over the last 3 weeks rather than improved!” Raab claimed he was not sugar coating the margin of error with delivering PPE, but does not agree that the situation is getting worse not better, implying that the illustrious Doctors were lying. Raab banged on about the global supply shortage and started reeling off lots of big numbers, kit from China, Turkey and Myanmar.
Starmer takes exception to the denial saying it was not his personal input, it was from Doctors on the front line. He then asked about further extending of testing, while capacity is 73,000 a day, there were only 43,000 tests done and NHS or Care staff only account for 29,000. There is no lack of demand, demand is through the roof so why were 50,000 available tests not used and when would they go to the 250,000 a day that Boris Johnson pledged, is that still a Government target? Raab is really defensive about things getting worse. They have doubled capacity he waffles on, spouting more numbers waffle, waffle… On the difference between capacity and demand, unable to think of who to blame, he claims they are widening eligibility and on track, but 250 is an aspiration.
Starmer wants to know the way forward, what is the next stage, not a release of the lockdown, not a rigid timeframe, but we do need information. Raab is non committal hiding behind SAGE’s decision making, with only a pretence as he claims maximum transparency. On the exit strategy there are no proposals as they are waiting on SAGE. Starmer countered that other countries have set out a plan, but not UK. Raab says there will be no concrete plans laid out. In a direct dig at Starmer he makes the accusation: “does he think he knows better than SAGE?” This is the classic Tory response, hide behind the “scientific experts.”
Among other pressing questions the SNPs Ian Blackford MP brought up the need for an extension of the transition period in both of his two questions, to which Raab emphatically refused to budge; this will return next week. Also from the SNP, David Doogan bought up the need for a Universal Basic Income, which also received a flat “no” from Raab. That too will be back; you have got to admire that Scottish tenacity. There was also the standard non-question “stroking” as Tory MPs offering Raab an opportunity to embellish on Government promises that they have no intention of following through on. One such fawning invitation elicited the comment from Raab that the Conservatives were the party of the NHS; try telling that to the staff risking their lives without access to proper PPE! Raab said when he read out the Covid 19 death toll, he walked away ashen faced, and that he paid tribute to NHS with the minute of silence; conveniently ignoring how many needless deaths were directly caused by Tory policy!
Allan Dorans wanted to know that if we developed a vaccine the distribution would be global to meet greatest need, not dictated by wealth. Raab superficially agreed; the Oxford team did seem committed to that principal. Garant Davies wanted more information about why the UK opted out of the EU procurement plan for PPE and equipment; was it a political choice and will we join any new option in future? Raab reiterated the false claim that it was just a communications failure, a lost email, but it would not have made any difference and we will look at participating in future; he should have added only if shamed into doing so. Protection for those at risk of Domestic violence came up and Raab rattled of measures taken and funds spent.
Robert Court said banks were not providing finance, businesses were being denied help. Raab said banks must do their bit. Zarah Sultana insisted that big businesses being bailed out by the Government should not be handing out dividends or using offshore tax havens as ordinary people were still not getting much, if any support. Without offering any assurance of fairness or equality Raab replied with a typical rude Tory insult, accusing her of inserting her “partisan baggage.” David Mundell raised the issue of our key worker lorry drivers still on the road with little access to hot food, toilets or showers as many truck stops closed. Raab said they were doing their best for our recently discovered key workers. Both Desmond Swage and Mark Prichard made a plea for garden centres to be opened. Raab seemed impressed that more than one MP felt so strongly about this and said SAGE we will consider it.
The media discreetly talk of Boris Johnson’s fiancé giving birth to their son, but let us not forget how Johnson himself characterized children of single mothers “ill-raised, ignorant, aggressive and illegitimate.” Due to the personal circumstances of my own birth, I was practically outraged and offended by this, one of Boris’s numerous truly disgraceful insults. Legitimacy is immaterial, but full responsibility for, and unashamed acknowledgement of children you have brought into this world is essential. I know the hardship and sacrifice of mothers who are abandoned to raise children without the support of men too shallow, feckless and negligent to even contribute towards raising them, so I have no time for dead-beat dads like Boris. But one rule for the elite and another for the plebs, Johnson’s latest little bundle of joy will be in a class of his own.
What really was heart-warming news this morning as well as a reminder that despite losing her show Victoria Derbyshire is still determined to highlight the news that really matters to ordinary people, the story of the owner of a four star hotel in Shrewsbury who accepted the challenge of providing accommodation for the homeless during the Covid 19 crisis. Hotel proprietor Mike was interviewed alongside one of his new hotel guests and admitted how the experience has changed the way he viewed homeless people. Chris who was homeless living on the streets before the crisis hit said how much it had transformed the lives of the people who were taken in, how they were becoming fit and well even seeing addicts get off drugs. Amazing that we could get everyone off the street when the Government felt compelled to make it happen; we must hope there is no regression from this positive initiative.
This crisis has shown just what is possible with the right political will and the funds the Tory Government have insisted was not there for public services or the common good. From housing the destitute to rescuing our polluted environment, we have made massive transformative changes overnight. Now this ground has been taken we must never allow the Government to take back what is rightfully ours or resume their reckless destruction of the planet to satiate corporate greed. If allow this hard right Tory Government to get away with gaming the system as they did with the Covert 2019 Rigged Election they will continue putting NHS staff and Carers at risk as they pursue their warped eugenics program to cull the elderly with the “Holocaust of Care.” They will crash out of the EU and double down on the working poor; austerity and homelessness return. A full investigation of the Election result could rob the Tories of their legitimacy and remove them from power; we must try.