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As if brandishing a ‘God badge’ Boris Johnson rose to his feet at Prime Ministers Questions ready to extoll the virtues of recently deceased Captain Sir Tom Moore saying, “Captain Tom, as we all came to know him, dedicated his life to serving his country and others. His was a long life lived well, whether during his time defending our nation as an Army officer or, last year, bringing the country together through his incredible fundraising drive for the NHS that gave millions a chance to thank the extraordinary men and women of our NHS who have protected us in this pandemic. As Captain Tom repeatedly reminded us, ‘Please remember, tomorrow will be a good day’. He inspired the very best in us all, and his legacy will continue to do so for generations to come. We now all have the opportunity to show our appreciation for him and all that he stood for and believed in, and that is why I encourage everyone to join in a national clap for Captain Tom and all those health workers for whom he raised money at 6 pm this evening.”
Johnson sucked the oxygen out of an admired national hero as if the centenarian’s achievements were entirely his own. In the PMs sad exploitation, istead of an admiring salute to Captain Tom’s tenacity and human spirit the veteran’s passing became another excuse to ramp-up nationalistic jingoism and insincere flattery and praise for our NHS the Tories so determinedly neglect. At least when Claire Hanna SDLP said, “I echo those words,” her praise in calling Captain Tom, “a decent and inspiring man,” didn’t sound hollow. She said, “The Social Democratic and Labour party has warned for the last five years about the destabilising impact Brexit would have on Northern Ireland, though we take no pleasure in the disruption or in the injury some feel to their British identity. The last few days have seen a rash decision, thankfully withdrawn, by the European Commission, which was condemned by all parties here and both Governments and which, unfortunately, was followed by sporadic criminal behaviour and threats.”
Hanna asked, “Will the Prime Minister, in affirming the rule of law in Northern Ireland, consider seriously the impact of their words, and work together through the available structures to ensure that the new arrangements work for everybody in Northern Ireland? Every the perennial bully, Johnson was still revelling in a triumph over a brief diplomatic gaff that, for a change, was not of his own making. He said, “I certainly agree with the hon. Lady that it was most regrettable that the EU should seem to cast doubt on the Good Friday agreement and the principles of the peace process by seeming to call for a border across the island of Ireland. I can tell her that we will work to ensure that there are no such borders, we will respect the peace process, and, indeed, no barriers down the Irish sea, and that the principle of unfettered access across all parts of our United Kingdom is upheld.” In reality within a day the PM and his Brexiteer ultras were plotting a way to use this hastily retracted threat to violate the international treaty themselves.
Former PM Theresa May said, “I am sure my right hon. Friend is aware that my ten-minute rule Bill would increase the maximum penalty for death by dangerous driving to life imprisonment. The policy and the Bill have cross-party support. The policy has Government support; the Bill does not. The Government say they will introduce the policy in their sentencing Bill, of which we have as yet seen no sign. So, will the Government now give Government time to my Bill to ensure that this necessary change is put on the statute book as soon as possible?” The PM responded, “I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend, and she is absolutely right to campaign for punishments that fit the crime; we are therefore bringing forward exactly those changes in our forthcoming sentencing Bill. Our proposals will, I believe, go as far as, if not even further than, those that she wants by raising the maximum penalty for causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and they will tighten the law for those who cause serious injury by careless driving.”
Captain Tom’s family had yet to be considered in previous remarks, but this omission stood out when Keir Starmer said, “May I join you, Mr Speaker, and the Prime Minister in sending my condolences to the family of Captain Sir Tom Moore? He perhaps more than anyone embodied the spirit of Britain; he will be sadly missed, and I welcome the initiative that the Prime Minister spoke of for a clap this evening. Our thoughts are also with the family of Maureen Colquhoun, the first openly lesbian MP and a great champion of women’s rights. Let me pay tribute to our NHS and all those on the frontline who are delivering the vaccine. Today we are likely to hit 10 million vaccinations, which is remarkable. The biggest risk to the vaccine programme at the moment is the arrival of new variants, such as the South African variant. On that issue, the Government’s own scientists in the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies said two weeks ago that: ‘Only a complete pre-emptive closure of borders or the mandatory quarantine of all visitors upon arrival can get close to fully preventing new cases or new variants’.”
Starmer insisted, “That is pretty clear, so why did the Prime Minister choose not to do the one thing that SAGE said could prevent new variants coming to the United Kingdom?” The PM claimed, “Actually, SAGE did not recommend a complete ban and says that a travel ban should not be relied upon to stop the importation of new variants, but we do have one of the toughest regimes in the world. Anybody coming from South Africa not only has to do a test before they come here, but anybody now coming from South Africa, a British citizen coming from South Africa now, will find themselves obliged to go into quarantine for 10 days, and will have an isolation assurance agency checking up on them. It is illegal now to go on holiday in this country; it is illegal to travel from South Africa or all the countries on the current red list, and we will be going forward with a plan to ensure that people coming into this country from those red list countries immediately have to go into Government-mandated quarantine hospitality.”
Starmer responded, “I am intrigued by the Prime Minister’s answer. I do not think he disputes what SAGE’s view was, that only a complete closure or comprehensive quarantine of all arrivals will work. He does not seem to dispute that; he says it simply was not a recommendation. I ask the Prime Minister to publish the full SAGE minutes so we can see what was said in full; or, if there is some other advice, perhaps he can publish that. The situation is this: we know that the South African variant is spreading across England, and measures are in place to try to deal with that. We also know that other variants are out there in other parts of the world. Just as a matter of common sense, is the Prime Minister really saying that quarantining all arrivals would make no difference to fighting new variants of the virus, or is he saying that quarantining all arrivals at the border would make a difference but it is too difficult?”
Resorting to a cherished tactic, the PM played on ‘first you say this, now you say that’ confusion, “This is the right hon. and learned Gentleman who only recently said that quarantine measures are ‘a blunt instrument’ and whose shadow Transport Secretary said that quarantine should be ‘lessened’. We have one of the toughest regimes in the world. When the right hon. and learned Gentleman calls for a complete closure of borders, or suggests that that might be an option, he should be aware that 75% of our medicines come into this country from the European continent, as does 45% of our food, and 250,000 businesses in this country rely on imports. It is not practical completely to close off this country as he seems to be suggesting. What is practical is to have one of the toughest regimes in the world and to get on with vaccinating the people of this country, which is what we are doing.”
Annoyed, Starmer shot back, “What the Prime Minister says about the Labour position is complete nonsense; he knows it. It is 3 February 2021; with new variants in the country, our schools are shut and our borders are open. Everybody knows there are exceptions whatever the quarantine regime. Everybody knows that. That is not what this question is about. The position is this: 21,000 people are coming into this country every day. The Prime Minister’s new border arrangements are still weeks away from being implemented and will only affect direct flights from some countries. We know from the first wave of the pandemic that only 0.1% of virus cases came from China, where we had restrictions, whereas 62% came indirectly from France and Spain, where there were no restrictions. Why does the Prime Minister think that the variants of the virus will behave differently and arrive in the UK only by direct flights?” It was a valid point, an important question, but the PM stuck to the same game of confusion.
The PM said, “The right hon. and learned Gentleman cannot have it both ways. He simultaneously says that he wants the borders to be kept open for freight reasons or to allow businesses to carry on as now, I think that was what he was saying, while calling for tougher quarantine measures, which is exactly what this Government imposed as soon as we became aware of the new variant. I repeat what someone has to do if they want to come into this country from abroad. Seventy-two hours before they fly, they have to get a test. They have to have a passenger locator form; they are kicked off the plane if they do not have it. They then have to spend 10 days in quarantine. If they come from one of the red list countries, they have to go straight into quarantine. All that, of course, is to allow us to get on with the vaccination programme. If we had listened to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, we would still be at the starting blocks, because he wanted to stay in the European Medicines Agency and said so four times from that Dispatch Box.”
Indignant Starmer claimed this was, “Complete nonsense.” He hit back with a classic observation of Johnson’s PMQs conduct, “Don’t let the truth get in the way of a pre-prepared gag: the Prime Minister knows that I have never said that, from this Dispatch Box or anywhere else, but the truth escapes him. He describes the current arrangements. If they were working, the variant—the single biggest threat to the vaccine system, would not be in the country. Let me turn to another area where the Government have been slow to act: the cladding crisis. This is affecting millions of people, and I cannot tell the Prime Minister how anxious and angry people feel about it. It is now three and a half years since the Grenfell tragedy, which took 72 lives. Can the Prime Minister tell the House and the country why, three and a half years on, there are still hundreds of thousands of people living in homes with unsafe cladding, and why millions of leaseholders are in homes that they cannot sell and are facing extortionate costs?”
The PM smugly retorted, “In respect of the right hon. and learned Gentleman’s last answer, may I advise him to consult YouTube, where he will find an answer?” A sentiment implied: ‘fact check’ didn’t find the exact words. “The right hon. and learned Gentleman raises a very important point about cladding and the predicament of some leaseholders, many leaseholders, and he is absolutely right that this is a problem that needs to be fixed. This Government are getting on with it. On 95% of the high-rise buildings with unsafe ACM cladding, work is either complete or under way to remove that cladding. I very much appreciate and sympathise with the predicament of leaseholders who are in that situation, but we are working to clear the backlog, and I can tell him that my right hon. Friends the Chancellor and the Communities Secretary will be coming forward with a full package to address the issue.”
Instead of offering the facts and moving on to another pressing question Starmer belaboured the point saying, “Whatever the Prime Minister claims is being done is not working, because this is the situation. Through no fault of their own, huge numbers of people, especially leaseholders, are stuck in the middle. They are living in unsafe homes. They cannot sell and they are being asked to foot the bill. That is the situation they are in. Take, for example, Will Martin. He is a doctor who has a flat in Sheffield. He has been spending his days on the frontline fighting covid in the NHS. He spends his nights worrying about the £52,000 bill that he now has to pay for fire safety repairs. He does not want future promises, Prime Minister. He does not want to hear that it has all been sorted when he knows that it has not. He wants to know, here and now: will he or will he not have to pay that £52,000 bill?”
The PM got his usual easy ride from the Captain of Capitulation, who never managed to ask more than one or two questions. He said, “We are determined that no leaseholder should have to pay for the unaffordable costs of fixing safety defects that they did not cause and are no fault of their own. That is why, in addition to the £1.6 billion we are putting in to remove the HPL, high-pressure laminate, cladding, we have also set up a £1 billion building safety fund that has already processed over almost 3,000 claims. I sympathise very much with Dr Martin, the gentleman the right hon. and learned Gentleman mentions, and I hope very much that his particular case can be addressed in the course of the forthcoming package that will be produced by my right hon. Friends.”
Starmer trudged on repeating the same unanswered question, “There are thousands and thousands of people in exactly the same position. I spoke to leaseholders caught in the middle of this on Monday. One of them was Hayley. She has already gone bankrupt, Prime Minister. She is 27. She bought a flat, she has lost it and she is now bankrupt. It is too late for her. Those leaseholders I spoke to had three very simple asks. This is what they want: immediate up-front funding for unsafe blocks; a deadline of next year to make buildings safe; and protection for leaseholders. We put those forward for a vote on Monday. The Prime Minister says he is determined to do something about it. What did he do? He ordered his MPs to abstain. If the Prime Minister is serious about moving this forward and ending this injustice, will he commit today to those simple asks from leaseholders?”
Johnson had dispensed with the easily deflected questions of his loyal Trojan horse doing his ineffectual duty pretending to present ‘forensic’ opposition; it was such a joke. Now it was time for his favorite part of PMQs, his Party political broadcast of unadulterated blather and PR spin… The PM bragged, “We are getting on with the job of helping leaseholders across the country by remediating their buildings. In addition to the funds I have already mentioned, I can tell the right hon. and learned Gentleman that we are also introducing a £30 million fund to install alarms and other interim measures. We are making it very clear to the mortgage industry that they should support people living in such accommodation, and making it clear to all sectors in the industry that people living in such homes should not be tied up in the whole EWS1 process. That will benefit about 450,000 homeowners. I think he is right to raise the problem, but we are getting on with addressing it.”
On a roll the PM continued his obscene and deceitful bullshit pitch, saying, “We are getting on with addressing the fundamental problem that afflicts this country and that is the covid pandemic. That is why I am pleased we have now done 10 million first vaccinations across the country. I repeat, Mr Speaker, that had we listened to the right hon. and learned Gentleman we would be stuck at go. He is shaking his head, but he can check the record. Several times he said that this country should remain in the European Medicines Agency. If he wishes he can, on a point of order, correct me. He said it was wrong just now. I think he should study the record and he will find that that is exactly what he did. We want to get this country safe again. We want schools to come back. The right hon. and learned Gentleman continues to refuse to say that schools are not safe. On the contrary, he spends his time looking at Labour focus groups, who tell him that he should stop sitting on the fence…” He was interrupted by the Speaker.
As eyes glazed over the Speaker put an end to Johnson’s spin before the Chamber became any more nauseous. He said, “Order. In fairness, Prime Minister, we have to be somewhere near the question that was asked. I do not want you to go around answering every problem and issue. There are a lot more questions that will allow you to do that and the first one is from Marco Longhi. After paying homage to Captain Tom, the Tory MP asked, “Will the Prime Minister join me in paying tribute to Paul Gough at the club, who is working with young boys and girls who have been excluded from mainstream education? Will he also pay tribute to the council leader Patrick Harley, who has agreed to and is supporting a new school, in partnership with the club, to ensure that these young people will get academic qualifications as well as increased strength, belief and new opportunities for the future?” After being knocked off his pedestal the PM was happy to accept such a bland non-question praising boxing from his loyal Tory team.
The SNP Leader Ian Blackford said, “May I associate myself with your remarks, Mr Speaker, about the remarkable gentleman Captain Sir Tom Moore and everything that he has done? He has been an inspiration to each and every one of us and I send my condolences to his family and friends. Last week, we told the Prime Minister that it was wrong for him to visit Scotland in the middle of a pandemic. We told him that it was a non-essential visit. This morning, the Daily Record newspaper revealed that the Prime Minister knew that the Livingston plant that he was visiting had an outbreak of 14 covid cases just 24 hours earlier. There are serious questions to answer. Did the Prime Minister and his advisers know about the covid outbreak? When did they know, and when did the Prime Minister make the irresponsible decision to go ahead with what was a PR stunt?”
The PM was evasive, deliberately avoiding touching on any point close to a critical question that put his PR shenanigans in a very poor light. He said, “I can think of few things more important than to see the roll-out of the vaccination programme across this country, to encourage the wonderful companies who are doing great work across the whole of Scotland and to see the commitment of those Scottish scientists to helping us all to defeat the pandemic. It was fantastic to talk to them. I would just repeat that the Government remain, as I said yesterday, very willing to help Scotland with the roll-out of vaccines across the whole of the UK.”
Blackford was not impressed saying, “There is the wow factor once again with the Prime Minister. What an absolute shambles that he has gone to a plant where there was a covid outbreak. The Prime Minister cannot just explain away this absolutely shocking error of judgment. Anyone can see that his campaign trip to Scotland was utterly reckless. The Daily Record story is very clear. The Prime Minister and his advisers knew there was a serious covid outbreak at this plant. They knew the visit posed a risk, but they made a deliberate choice. They made the irresponsible choice. The Prime Minister put politics before public health. Prime Minister, why be so reckless? Is it any wonder that people in Scotland have no faith in this Prime Minister? Is not he the worst possible leader at the worst possible time?” This would not play out well in the British press, but would they just ignore it?
Boris Johnson regurgitated that nauseating, grossly inappropriate, ‘everyone agrees with me’ message, boldly stating, “I I think what the people of Scotland want to see is the whole country pulling together and working to develop the vaccine, as that fantastic plant in Scotland is doing. One of the advantages of the Valneva vaccine is that it may be able to combat all sorts of variants in a very comprehensive way. It is amazing and wonderful to see Scottish scientists working to do that. I had a fantastic time. Nobody, by the way, raised that issue with me before or since, and it is my job to visit every part of this country. Nothing and no one is going to stop me, and I am very, very proud of the Government’s record in rolling out the vaccine. As I say, the offer remains open to the Scottish nationalist party. We are there, Scottish National party, if they insist, though they are also nationalists, Mr Speaker. We are there to help the roll-out of the vaccine and do more, where they decide that is necessary.”
Boris Johnson had launched into arrogantly assuming that he could tell the people what they wanted; this repeated insulting tactic is so disgustingly disingenuous, especially as the PM relentlessly chalks-up serious blunders that cost lives he seems oblivious to. Ignoring the grief of his bereaved family, the death of Captain Tom was exploited as another terrific PR stunt; like neglecting the material needs of NHS staff while getting us to clap for them! We cannot continue tolerating being told what we want by the PM, any more than we should accept his fake empathy, grand expensable pledges or his ‘borrowed votes’ lie re the unfathomable result of the Covert 2019 Rigged Election. Do we allow Boris Johnson to ignore the spiraling Covid death toll while still bragging about the achievements of scientists and medics, or do we Protest, Challenge and Investigate the Tory corruption that’s destroying the UK? The ‘Slaughter of the Sheeple’ will not stop until the vile truth is exposed to remove this Tory Sovereign Dictatorship from power. DO NOT MOVE ON!