Reply To: Elections Aftermath: Was our 2019 Vote & the EU Referendum Rigged? #TORYRIG2019

Home Forums Discussion Forum Elections Aftermath: Was our 2019 Vote & the EU Referendum Rigged? #TORYRIG2019 Reply To: Elections Aftermath: Was our 2019 Vote & the EU Referendum Rigged? #TORYRIG2019

Kim Sanders-Fisher

In the first Prime Minister’s Questions of 2021 Boris Johnson asked Members of the House to join him in offering our condolences to the family and friends of a former colleague, who died over Christmas, but the public focus as the Covid death toll soars to over 1500 a day is on the many who have lost loved ones prematurely and unnecessarily due to this inept Tory Government. Johnson also announced publication of proposals for reforming the Mental Health Act saying that, “For too long we have seen rising rates of detention that not only had little beneficial effect, but left some worse off, not better off.” Rather than offering greater dignity, choice and humanity to treatment of ‘the most vulnerable,’ I expect any Tory proposals will target ways to slash costs! The first question was from Tory Sir Gary Streeter who asked about the assessment of exams saying that, “A clear plan announced early, without last-minute changes, would help teachers and students prepare for an even more challenging experience.”

After admitting there was “a problem of differential learning” The PM said, “We will do everything we can to ensure that exams are fair and that the ways of testing are set out in a timely way, and the Department for Education is launching a consultation with Ofqual to ensure that we get the right arrangements for this year.” After adding his condolences Keir Starmer began by “paying tribute to all those involved in the vaccine programme?” Following a visit to Newham vaccine hub he passed on a simple message from, “the NHS, the Red Cross and lots of volunteers working there: ‘if they had more vaccine, they could and they would do more, and I am sure that is shared across the country. I welcome news that has come out this morning about a pilot of 24/7 vaccine centres. I anticipate there is going to be huge clamour for this, so can the Prime Minister tell us: when will the 24/7 vaccine centres be open to the public, because I understand they are not at the moment, and when will they be rolled out across the country?”

Eager to encourage more effusive praise the PM replied, “I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for what he says about the roll-out of vaccines. I can tell him that we will be going to 24/7 as soon as we can, and my right hon. Friend the Health Secretary will be setting out more about that in due course. As he rightly says, at the moment the limit is on supply. We have a huge network, 233 hospitals, 1,000 GP surgeries, 200 pharmacies and 50 mass vaccination centres, and they are going, as he has seen himself, exceptionally fast, and I pay tribute to their work. It is thanks to the work of the NHS and to the vaccine taskforce that we have secured more doses, I think, per capita than virtually any other country in the world, certainly more than any other country in Europe.” Regrettably the unanswered question had just elicited a torrent of self-congratulatory Tory PR spin.

Starmer responded with, “I obviously welcome that, and urge the Prime Minister and the Government to get on with this. We are all happy to help, and there are many volunteers who are. The sooner we have 24/7 vaccine centres, the better for our NHS and the better for our economy. The last PMQs was on 16 December. The Prime Minister told us then that we were seeing, in his words, ‘significant reductions in the virus.’ [Official Report, 16 December 2020; Vol. 686, c. 265.] He told us then that there was no need for ‘endless lockdowns’ and no need to change the rules about Christmas mixing. Since the last PMQs, 17,000 people have died of covid, 60,000 people have been admitted to hospital, and there have been more than 1 million new cases. How did the Prime Minister get it so wrong, and why was he so slow to act?” The PMs decisions were so deeply flawed he has to be held to account!

Johnson was defensive saying, “Of course, what the right hon. and learned Gentleman fails to point out is that on 18 December, two days later, the Government were informed about the spread of the new variant, and the fact that it spreads roughly 50% to 70% faster than the old variant. That is why it is correct to say that the situation today is very troubling indeed: we have 32,000 covid patients in hospital, and the NHS is under huge strain.” After point blank lying about what he knew and when, the PM used his favorite distraction tactic, “I wish to take this opportunity to pay tribute to all the staff, doctors, nurses, and everybody working in our NHS. They are doing an extraordinary job under the most challenging possible circumstances to help those who so desperately need it. I thank them for what they are doing. At the same time, I also wish to thank all those involved in what is the biggest vaccination programme in the history of this country.” Johnson tried to sound like Churchill during the Blitz, but he had bought this mess down on us!

The PM hadn’t finished capitalizing on the efforts of frontline staff, “Once again, the NHS is in the lead, working with the Army and the legion of volunteers and everybody else. That programme of vaccines shows the way forward, and shows how we will come through this pandemic. I repeat my gratitude to all those involved, because they have now vaccinated 2.4 million people and delivered 2.8 million doses, which is more than any other country in Europe. This is the toughest of times, but we can see the way forward.” Starmer wasn’t letting him off the hook with this ‘human sheild’ tactic; he probed, “The Prime Minister says that effectively two days after that PMQs the advice changed, but the truth is that the indicators were all in the wrong direction at that last PMQs. Be that as it may, the Prime Minister says that he got that advice on 18 December, two days after PMQs, and we have all seen the SAGE minutes of 22 December, confirming the advice that was given to the Government.” The PMs lies were fully exposed…

Starmer was holding the evidence and waving the papers in the air to dispel any doubt as he said, “The Government’s advisers warned the Prime Minister that the new variant was spreading fast, and that it was highly unlikely that November-style lockdowns would be sufficient to control it. That was pretty clear advice on 18 December to the Prime Minister from SAGE: a tougher lockdown than in November is going to be needed. I have the minutes here; everybody has seen them. Yet instead of acting on 18 December, the Prime Minister sat on his hands for over two weeks, and we are now seeing in the daily figures the tragic consequences of that delay. How does the Prime Minister justify delaying for 17 days after he got that advice on 18 December?” The PM never admits any guilt, “I must disagree very profoundly with what the right hon. and learned Gentleman has just said.”

Trying to reinvent the facts, Johnson said, “He knows very well that within 24 hours of getting the advice on 18 December about the spread of the new variant, we acted to put the vast part of the country into much, much tougher measures. Indeed, we are now seeing, it is important to stress that these are early days, the beginnings of some signs that that is starting to have an effect in many parts of the country, but by no means everywhere. It is early days, and people must keep their discipline, keep enforcing the rules, and work together, as I have said, to roll out that vaccine programme. I recall that on the day that we went into a national lockdown and, sadly, were obliged to shut the schools, even on that day, the Labour party was advocating keeping schools open. That was for understandable reasons, we all want to keep schools open, but I think it a bit much to be attacked for taking tougher measures to put this country into the protective measures it needed, when the Labour party was then calling to keep schools open.”

Starmer’s mistake in supporting Johnson over schools exposed a weakness in his argument, but he plugged on saying, “Just for the record, I wrote to the Prime Minister on 22 December, I had not seen the SAGE advice at that stage, saying to him that if the advice indicated that there should be a national lockdown, he should do it immediately and he would have our full support. I will put that in the public domain so that people can check the record. More fundamentally, the Prime Minister says, ‘We took measures straightaway; we put people into different tiers.’ The advice was that a November-style lockdown was not enough. How on earth was putting people into a different tier system an answer to the advice that was given? Is not the situation that every time there is a big decision to take, the Prime Minister gets there late? The next big decision is obvious. The current restrictions are not strong enough to control the virus; stronger restrictions are needed.” It was time for Starmer to offer a strong warning over more dithering!

The PM and his Tory cabal were demonstrating their denial again, as Starmer remarked, “There is no point Government Members shaking their heads; in a week or two, the Prime Minister is likely to be asking Members to vote for this. Can the Prime Minister tell us, when infection rates are much higher than last March, when hospital admissions are much higher than last March, when death rates are much higher than last March, why on earth are restrictions weaker than last March?” Learning from past embarrassing mistakes had never been a Tory strong point and Johnson’s noncommittal reply was standard fare; he said, “We keep things under constant review and we will continue to do so, and certainly, if there is any need to toughen up restrictions, which I do not rule out, we will of course come to this House.” Presumably when the Scotish First Minister takes the lead on this, shaming him into acting.

The PM, still scrambling to rewrite the chronology of his inaction and make plausible excuses, said, “But perhaps, as is so often the case, the right hon. and learned Gentleman did not listen to my earlier answer, because I pointed out to the House that actually, the lockdown measures that we have in place, combined with the tier 4 measures that we were using, are starting to show signs of having some effect. We must take account of that too, because nobody can doubt the serious damage that is done by lockdowns to people’s mental health, jobs and livelihoods. To listen to the right hon. and learned Gentleman over the last 12 months, you would think he had absolutely no other policy except to plunge this country into 12 months of lockdown. As for coming too late to things, it was only a few weeks ago that he was attacking the vaccine taskforce, which has secured the very doses, the millions of doses, that have put this country into the comparatively favourable position that we now find ourselves in.” Toss in a lie why not?

Starmer refuting the lie said, “That is just not true. Every time I have spoken about the vaccine, I have supported it. The Prime Minister says we are balancing health restrictions and the economy, yet we ended 2020 with the highest death toll in Europe and the deepest recession in any major economy, so that just is not a good enough answer.” But a headline news story demanded Starmer’s attention as he said, “I want to turn to the latest free school meals scandal. We have all seen images on social media of disgraceful food parcels for children, costed at about £5 each. That is not what the Government promised. It is nowhere near enough. Would the Prime Minister be happy with his kids living on that? If not, why is he happy for other people’s kids to do so?” The PM reached for the defensive shield of showering praise on Mark Rashford, after admitting that, “I do not think anybody in this House is happy with the disgraceful images that we have seen of the food parcels that have been offered.”

Distancing himself from any responsibility the PM said, “They are appalling; they are an insult to the families who have received them. I am grateful, by the way, to Marcus Rashford, who highlighted the issue and is doing quite an effective job, by comparison with the right hon. and learned Gentleman, of holding the Government to account for these issues:” feeble opposition called out! He said, “The company in question has rightly apologised and agreed to reimburse. It is because we want to see our kids properly fed throughout this very difficult pandemic that we have massively increased the value of what we are providing, another £170 million in the covid winter grant scheme, £220 million more for the holiday activities and food programme, and we are now rolling out the national free school meal voucher scheme, as we did in March, to give parents the choice to give kids the food that they need. This Government will do everything we can to ensure that no child goes hungry as a result of the privations caused by this pandemic.”

Starmer rebuked, “The Prime Minister says that the parcels are ‘disgraceful’, but it should not have taken social media to shame the Prime Minister into action. Like the Education Secretary, he blames others, and he invites me to hold him to account, so let me do that because blaming others, Prime Minister, is not as simple as that, is it?” Starmer had laid a trap and he was waving another evidence document saying, “I have checked the Government guidance on free school meals, the current guidance, published by the Department for Education. I have it here. It sets out an ‘Example parcel for one child for five days,’ the Department for Education, Prime Minister; you want to be held to account, ‘1 loaf of bread…2 baking potatoes…block of cheese…baked beans…3 individual yoghurts.” Sound familiar? They are the images, Prime Minister, you just called ‘disgraceful’. The only difference I can see with this list and what the Prime Minister has described as ‘disgraceful’ is a tin of sweetcorn, a packet of ham and a bottle of milk’.”

Triumphant, Starmer said, “He blames others, but this is on his watch. The truth is, families come last under this Government, whether it is exams, free school meals or childcare. Will the Prime Minister undertake, he wants to be held to account, to take down this guidance by the close of play today and ensure that all our children can get a decent meal during the pandemic?” The PM’s best defence was attack, “The right hon. and learned Gentleman’s words would be less hypocritical and absurd if it were not for the fact that the…” He was cut short by the Speaker, who said, “I do not believe anybody is a hypocrite in this Chamber. I think we need to be a little bit careful about what we are saying to each other. There was a ‘not true’ earlier and there were also comparisons to others. Please, let us keep discipline in this Chamber and respect for each other. We are tidying up how this Parliament behaves and I certainly expect the leadership of both parties to ensure that that takes place.Prime Minister, would you like to withdraw the word ‘hypocrisy’?”

Smacked down Johnson fained contrition, “I am delighted to be advised by you, Mr Speaker. Let me confine my criticism to the absurdity, which I hope is acceptable, Mr Speaker, of the right hon. and learned Gentleman attacking us over free school meals when it was a Conservative Government that instituted free school meals, universally approved, not a Labour Government. Of the £280 billion that we have spent securing the jobs and livelihoods of people across this country, uprating universal credit and, in addition, increasing the living wage by record amounts this year and last year, as well as increasing the local housing allowance, the overwhelming majority of benefits, the bulk of the measures, fall in favour of the poorest and the neediest in society, which is what this House would expect. The right hon. and learned Gentleman takes one position one week and one position the next. That is what he does.”

The PM ranted, “That has been his whole lamentable approach, if I can get away with lamentable, Mr Speaker, throughout this pandemic. He says he supports the vaccine now. He says he supports the vaccine roll-out, and he tries to associate himself with it because he senses that it is going well, but be in no doubt that that was the party that wanted us, this country, to stay in the European Union vaccine programme. That is absolutely true. He stood on a manifesto, which he has not repudiated, to dismantle the very pharmaceutical companies that have created this miracle of science, which is true…” The Speaker broke in again saying, “Prime Minister, there are questions and sometimes we have got to try to answer the question that was asked of you. To run through history is one thing, but in fairness, it is Prime Minister’s questions. It was the final question. We have lots of others to go through, so I think I am now going to move on…” If only he still had control of a mute button when Johnson started ranting!

The SNP Leader Ian Blackford had just reason to be angry over Brexit chaos as he pointed out that, “My constituent in Lochaber, a producer and exporter of shellfish, is experiencing his worst nightmare. After loading a lorry of fresh local seafood on Monday, as he has done for 35 years, his driver faced bureaucracy and delays. Brexit red tape meant that £40,000 of his fresh, high-quality produce was lost, unable to be sold. That £40,000 of produce is income for more than 100 local families in many remote and fragile communities. Will the Prime Minister tell my constituent where the sea of opportunity is that he and his Scottish Tories promised?”

Johnson hit back by throwing some big numbers out there to shut him up, “We are putting £100 million into supporting the fishing industry in Scotland and across the whole of the UK. It is the policy of the Scottish nationalist party not only to break up the United Kingdom under its hare-brained scheme but to take Scotland back into the EU and hand back control of Scottish fisheries to Brussels, thereby throwing away all those opportunities in a way that I think even the right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer) would say is totally absurd. I am amazed that the right hon. Gentleman continues on this track.”

Blackford wasn’t having it, snapping back, “I am amazed that the Prime Minister continues to traduce the name of the Scottish National party. He has been told before, and he really should get it right. Frankly, that answer was an insult to all the fishermen today facing loss. The reality is that a third of the Scottish fishing fleet is tied up in harbour; some boats are landing in Denmark, rather than Scotland, to avoid Brexit bureaucracy; and Scottish seafood exporters are losing upwards of £1 million in sales a day. Seafood Scotland says all the extra red tape is an almost impossible task, it has even forced ferry operators to pause load deliveries to the continent. The European Union has put in place a €5 billion fund to support businesses with the costs of Brexit. Last night, it was revealed that Ireland will receive €1 billion of that. Will the Prime Minister tell Scottish businesses when they will get the same level of support? Where is the compensation for my constituent who is losing £40,000 today?”

The PM was downright rude in his refusal to answer the question saying, “The right hon. Gentleman continually advocates the break-up of the Union of the United Kingdom and going back into the European Union, even though that would be immensely destructive to the Scottish economy, to jobs, livelihoods, pensions and the currency. So far as I understand it, the Scottish nationalists are already spending money in Scotland on what they call indyref2 when they should be getting on with fighting the pandemic. That, I think, is what the people of Scotland want to see. He might pay tribute, by the way, to the merits of the United Kingdom in rolling out a vaccine across the whole country. I am told that they cannot even bring themselves to call it the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. Perhaps he could just say that he likes the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine?” Oh please just grow up! How many times does Johnson have to be told this is Prime Minister’s Questions and not his forum to grill and insult the opposition?

Not only did Johnson neglect to offer any form of apology for deliberately miss-naming the SNP he doubled-down on his childish taunt knowing Blackford had no right of reply. No matter how apt, I sincerely doubt that the SNP would get away with calling the Tories the ‘Torment Party’ as this is unacceptable conduct. The PM has developed a habit of launching into a totally unrelated Party political broadcast that escalated at the point of the last opposition question he refuses to answer. Telling blatant lies in the House of Commons and making fanciful pledges, with no intention of follow through, has become a standard Tory tactic at PMQs. Instead there is a quaint prohibition on calling a fellow MP a liar! This ‘Boris Shit’ is dutifully reported as factual information by the compliant right wing Media and biased BBC. Johnson should be officially reprimanded, but his corrupt Tory Government doesn’t even belong in office. We must Challenge, Investigate and Expose the truth re the Covert 2019 Rigged Election and plundering of public funds. DO NOT MOVE ON!