Friday, July 23, 2021

Cutting energy bills be making switching easier

The government has announced plans to drive down energy bills for millions of families across the UK, so they have money more in their pockets.

  • The best way to get better service is to unleash a wave of competition within the energy market if managed properly this should also keep bills low so households across the UK can keep more money in their pockets.
  • That is why the government has today published proposals to trial automatic switching for customers on expensive default energy tariffs to cheaper deals, helping 15 million households save hundreds of pounds more a year on their energy bills.
  • Alongside these proposals, the government has announced that the Energy Price Cap, introduced in 2019 to protect the 15 million British households on default tariffs, could continue for longer - helping those on the highest tariffs save between £75 and £100 a year on dual fuel bills.
  • Making it easier to switch to a better deal on the market, will help people to keep more of what they earn.

Ensuring food supplies

The government has announced the rollout of daily contact testing for our critical food supply workers, minimising the disruption caused by rising COVID-19 cases in the coming weeks, while ensuring workers are not put at risk.

  • As part of the government's close engagement with the food and drinks sector, new targeted testing is being introduced for certain workplaces to ensure supermarket shelves are stocked and fridges are full.
  • That is why the requirement is being ended for vital food supply workers to self-isolate if they are identified as contacts of people with coronavirus,  and instead allow them to take daily tests at work if they test negative each day, with an initial 15 priority testing sites being rolled out today. 
  • By helping minimise the disruption caused by rising cases in the coming weeks, we can ensure our highly resilient food supply chain continues to keep food in strong supply while keeping our workers safe.

Music to start the weekend: Overture from Handel's "Solomon" (a.k.a. the arrival of the Queen of Sheba)

Quote of the day 23rd July 2021

“The point of using that really was to try and drive the Remain campaign and the people running it crazy.”

(Dominic Cummings on why he insisted that all Vote Leave campaigners repeated the misleading claim that Britain's weekly contribution to the EU was £350 million.

Let there be any misunderstanding, if Dom Cummings said it was raining I would look outside to check but in this instance he has finally admitted something I have believed for five years was his real strategy. 

And let's be honest it worked exactly as planned.)

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Thursday music spot: Bach's Fugue in G minor BWV 578

More competition in the UK digital economy

This week saw the announcement of new proposals to increase competition in the UK’s digital economy, making sure the public gets the best services at fair prices.

  • The UK tech scene is thriving – but we need to make sure British firms have a level playing field with existing tech giants.
  • That is why the government is proposing new powers for the digital markets watchdog, so they will be able to suspend, block and reverse decisions by tech giants, as well as issue fines of up to 10 per cent of  turnover for serious breaches.

  • These reforms will help to champion competition in our tech sector – protecting consumers and boosting the UK’s start up scene.

Protecting the consumer

This week the government announced new consumer protections to stamp out exploitation of online customers – building back fairer after the pandemic.

  • When consumers part with their hard-earned cash – they have every right to expect they will get their money’s worth.

  • That is why the government has announced an arsenal of planned reforms to boost competition and shield the public from rip offs – including by requiring prepayment schemes to safeguard customers’ money, tackling subscription traps by making it easier to cancel; and making fake business reviews illegal.

  • As we build back fairer, these reforms will protect the public from being hoodwinked and help small businesses thrive.

Quote of the day 22nd July 2021


Wednesday, July 21, 2021

New local government structure for Cumbria

After extensive debate among councillors and over thirteen thousand responses from local residents and organisations, the government has this afternoon announced which of the local proposals they have accepted for reform of local government in Cumbria, North Yorkshire, and Somerset.

I am very pleased to see that they have gone with the option I preferred and have been arguing for in Cumbria, which is two unitary councils for Cumbria, one covering the current areas of Copeland, Allerdale and Carlisle, the other the current areas of Eden, South Lakeland, and Barrow & Furness.

This was the preferred option supported by Copeland council and Allerdale council. There were a total of four options for reform involving a change to a unitary model put forward by local councils - and it is perhaps worth pointing out that all four of the councils involved - Cumbria County Council and all six districts - supported one of those four options for unitary local government.

The Secretary of State has asked the existing councils and their partners to work collaboratively and constructively together to drive forward the process of establishing unitary councils.

Local Government Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said:

"I have always been clear that any restructuring of local government must be locally-led and will not involve top-down solutions from government.

Residents, businesses and service providers have had their say on what will work best for their area and now councils in these three areas can start planning for the next step.

Where there is local support, changing the structure of local government can offer better value for money and improved services for residents."

This follows an announcement by the Prime Minister last week whereby he set out his vision to level up and unite the whole of the United Kingdom. In a speech, he set out the government’s role to:

  • empower strong local leaders by taking a more flexible approach to devolution, with new ‘County Deals’
  • focus on growing the private sector by creating the conditions for long-term growth and productivity;
  • invest in infrastructure and connectivity;
  • ensure that people have access to good public services, and the skills and training needed to get good jobs; and
  • improve the quality of life in communities through cutting crime and regenerating towns and high streets

Moving forward, Parliamentary approval will be sought to implement these locally led plans for the area. At the turn of the year, a draft structural changes Order will be laid in Parliament. This will include plans for the necessary transitional arrangements, including elections in May 2022 for the future unitary councils.

Vaccination Update


Tackling violence against women and girls

Today the government published a new Tackling Violence Against Women And Girls Strategy, with immediate practical steps and new funding to end violence against women and girls so that they feel safe at home, online and on the streets.

  • It is unacceptable that women and girls are still subject to harassment, abuse, and violence, and we are committed to cracking down on perpetrators whilst providing victims with the care and support they deserve. 
  • That is why the government has set out a new strategy for Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls, which will include creating a new top cop to stamp out violence against women, limiting the use of Non-Disclosure Agreements in higher education sexual harassment cases, and a package of measures to deal with street harassment. 
  • This will help to create a new, system-wide approach to end violence against women and girls so that they feel safe at home, online and on the streets.

Quote of the day 21st July 2021


Midweek music spot: "Recuerdos de la Alhambra," by Francisco Tárrega, arranged for harp

Monday, July 19, 2021

Quote of the day 19th July

"Having seen today’s scenes in Westminster, I’m organising a protest against the Corn Laws tomorrow.  Who’s with me?"

(Dan Hodges on the Anti-Lockdown protexts which took place earlier today, e.g. just after almost all the last remnants of lockdown had been lifted.)

The end of Lockdown

Today in England and largely also in the rest of the UK, almost all remaining COVID-19 restructions are removed or become advisory.

However, as we proceed to the final step of our roadmap out of lockdown - replacing legal restrictions with personal judgment, the Prime Minister has urged people to exercise caution and continue to come forward for both jabs.

  • Thanks to the success of Britain's historic vaccination programme and the continued efforts of the British people, we have severely weakened the link between cases and hospitalisations – saving thousands of lives and protecting the NHS.
  • That is why we are now able to move to the next step of our lockdown roadmap, ending limits on social gatherings and the 1-metre plus rule, allowing weddings, concerts and events to take place without restrictions, and – subject to local regulations – no longer mandating face coverings to be worn.
  • Whilst we enjoy our restored freedoms, we must remember that the pandemic is not over and cases will continue to rise over the coming weeks. So as we all learn to live with this virus, we must continue to carefully manage the risks from COVID and exercise judgement when going about our lives.

Music to relax on a Monday evening: Handel's Sarabande in D minor

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Sunday music spot: "Kyrie Eleison" from Mozart's Mass in C minor KV. 427

Making sure the COVID pandemic isn't followed by a flu epidemic

One of the few positive things about the COVID-19 pandemic is that the action taken to protect against the coronavirus has also almost entirely prevented the usual waves of deaths from Flu.

What we don't want, however is to allow this to mean that immunity from flu declines and we get a worst than usual wave of flu deaths this winter.

So yesterday the government announced the biggest seasonal flu programme in British history which will aim to vaccinate 35 million people from September.

  • As a result of COVID-19 restrictions that were in place, flu levels were significantly lower than expected last winter, increasing the likelihood of higher flu levels this year.

  • So we need to build on last years expanded flu vaccine programme, under which four in five people 65 and over in England received a jab.

  • For the first time all school pupils up to Year 11 will be offered a jab, along with all children aged two and three from the end of August, clinical risk groups including pregnant women, the over 50s, unpaid carers, frontline health and social care staff, and close contact of immunocompromised people.

Research into long-COVID

Today the government has announced new research into diagnosing and treating long COVID, to better understand the condition and identify new treatments.

  • Research shows that while the majority of people make a full recovery from COVID-19 some people experience longer lasting symptoms.

  • That is why the government is  building on the previous £100 million in care funding and £50 million in research funding for long COVID. Through the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) 15 new studies have been commissioned, backed by £19.6 million, to improve diagnosis of the condition, care services, and symptom management, and identify effective treatments.

  • Commissioning this research will be life changing for those who are struggling with longer-term symptoms, and will help configure treatment and care to best treat long COVID.

In memory

This plaque and tree were placed at West Cumberland Hospital this week in memory of all those who have been lost during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Quote of the day 18th July

 "There is no place in this country which does not have something special about it."

(Boris Johnson, from his "levelling up" speech this week.)

Comeback of the year

 On Twitter this morning:

"The Nazi ‘Black Book’ listing people to be liquidated and institutions likely to provide most resistance post invasion. Hard to believe now but top of the list was the CofE.

When it was found, Rebecca West wrote to Noel Coward ‘My dear, the people we’d have been seen dead with!’"

(Fergus Butler-Gallie)

Among the replies:

"Not hard to believe at all: against the combined forces of a disgruntled Choir, the Flower Guild and the Mothers' Union, even the Third Reich would have started to wobble."

(Wealands Bell)

All UK adults have now been offered a COVID-19 vaccination

Fantastic news that all adults in Britain have now been offered an approved COVID-19 vaccination.

Adults in England can book now by ringing 119 between 7am and 11pm seven days a week or online at

Book or manage your coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination - NHS (

All adults in the UK have now been offered a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, hitting the target to reach this point ahead of schedule.

  • In February, the government set a target that all adults would be offered a vaccine by the end of July, and that two in three adults would be double vaccinated by 19 July.

  • Through the world leading success of Britain's vaccine programme, we have exceeded those targets – now that every adult has been offered a vaccine, 88 per cent of adults have received a first dose, and 68 per cent have received two doses.

  • The success of Britain's vaccine programme has severely weakened the link between cases, hospitalisation, and deaths, making it possible to ease restrictions tomorrow on 19 July.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Latest vaccination numbers

More progress as we build a firewall of immune resistance against COVID:


However, if you have just had your first jab, do remember,

Saturday music spot: Handel's Pastoral Symphony, from the Messiah

Quote of the day 17th July 2021

"Communism is a failed system, a universally failed system, and I don't see socialism as a very useful substitute."

(U.S. President Joe Biden, referring to Cuba)

Friday, July 16, 2021

A new hospitality strategy

One of the sectors most cruelly hit by the pandemic and the measures taken to control it has been the hospitality industry. So I welcome the announcement today of a new hospitality strategy to help pubs, bars and restaurants recover and thrive in the long term as Britain builds back better from the pandemic.

  • The pandemic has hit the hospitality sector hard – but as we ease restrictions and re-open our economy, businesses will need support to welcome back customers and recruit the staff they need.
  • That is why the government has today launched the first-ever hospitality strategy – focused on reopening, recovery and resilience – including measures such as making it easier to offer al fresco dining, boosting career choice and opportunity in hospitality, and reducing waste and plastic consumption.
  • This will build help our beloved pubs, restaurants, cafes and nightclubs  thrive as we emerge from the pandemic – delivering better choice for consumers and protecting jobs and livelihoods. 

Regenerating high streets

This week the government launched a new High Streets Strategy, setting out how town centres will be transformed into vibrant places to live, work and visit as we build back better from the pandemic.

  • The regeneration of the high street is a key part of the plan to level up the country - and our new High Streets Strategy will help to deliver on this mission.
  • This strategy is about supporting high streets as they recover from the pandemic - turning vacant property into space for new businesses; planting millions of trees; tackling graffiti; and creating cleaner streets.
  • And the government is also launching a £150 million Community Ownership Fund, helping local groups take over pubs, theatres, shops and sports clubs at risk of closure without community intervention. 
  • Measures taken to regenerate town centres this week also included the last fifteen Town Deals, one of which was Millom in West Cumbria. All 101 town deals announced in September 2019 have now been allocated funding.
  • These measures will help to support the recovery of our high streets, so they can thrive in the long-term as we build back better.

Music to start the weekend: "Elizabethan Serenade" by Ronald Binge

Helen Horne RIP

Helen Horne, who I knew as chair of Healthwatch Cumbria, passed away a couple of weeks ago and her funeral is this afternoon.

Helen had been a teacher, a county councillor, and a non-executive director on Eden Valley Primary Care Trust,

David Blacklock, the CEO of Healthwatch Cumbria said in a statement on the Healthwatch website:

‘Helen was a passionate force for good, she dedicated her whole life to helping others, to tackling disadvantage and to supporting people to live better lives. Helen believed in fairness, equality and human rights. On a personal note, Helen and I became very good friends over the years, often enjoying a good glass of wine and a laugh together.’

Rest in Peace.


Quote of the day 16th July 2021

 "About a quarter of all GPs are due to retire in the next five years"

"We need to train, train, train and train up."

(Professor John Howarth, CBE, long-standing GP and former deputy CEO of the North Cumbria NHS trust, talking to the West Cumbria Community Forum this morning and explaining the extent of the staffing challenge facing Geeral Practice over the coming decade.

Although the same meeting heard a very good presentation on the success of international medical recruitment - which neither John Howarth or anyone else is opposed to - he argued that the only way we can resolve the serious medical staffing shortages in the NHS is much more training.)

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Levelling up


Levelling Up

  • While talent and potential is distributed evenly across this country, opportunity is not – and as Britain recovers from the pandemic, Conservatives are determined to level up the UK and deliver a fairer, stronger society.
  • Today the Prime Minister set out the steps being taken to deliver on this mission, focusing on raising living standardsspreading opportunityimproving our public services and restoring people’s sense of pride in their community – particularly in places that have felt left behind for decades.
  • But it is vital to understand the difference between this project and levelling down. Conservatives do not think you can make the poor parts of the country richer by making the rich parts poorer – levelling up is not a zero-sum game, it is about fixing the issues people face in every part of the country.
  • As we build back better from the pandemic, we will seize this moment to create a better quality of life for people in every part of the UK – so everyone can access the opportunities they need to succeed.

The Conservative governmnet is doing this by:

  • Publishing a landmark Levelling Up White Paper later this year, setting out the plan to improve livelihoods and opportunity in all parts of the UK. The White Paper will set out bold new policy interventions that grasp the opportunities of leaving the EU to improve livelihoods in all parts of the UK as we recover from the pandemic – boosting jobs, driving growth and innovation, increasing opportunity, and ensuring everyone has access to excellent public services, regardless of where they live.
  • Launching a new high streets strategy to transform our high streets into thriving places to live, work and visit. Measures in the strategy include extending pavement licences and the outdoor sales of alcohol for twelve months; plans to eradicate the scourge of chewing gum litter blighting our high streets, along with new guidance for councils to manage graffiti.

  • Announcing the final 15 towns that will benefit from our £3.6 billion Towns Fund, boosting local economies and creating jobs. The funding will support locally-led projects to transform disused buildings and public spaces, fund renovations to attractions, deliver new green transport, and create opportunities for people to develop new skills.
  • Launching a new £150 million Community Ownership Fund, protecting the social fabric of communities. From this summer, community groups will be able to bid for up to £250,000 in matched funding through the new fund to take over local pubs, theatres, shops and sports grounds at risk of closure. In some cases, up to £1 million will be made available to establish sports clubs or help to buy sports grounds at risk without community intervention.
  • Investing £50 million next year for grassroots football pitches to enable more people to access high-quality football pitches. This investment will be targeted at left-behind communities and will help to address health inequalities, as well as ensuring more people can play our nation’s sport.

This builds on the actions already being taken to level up the UK:

Regenerating local communities by:

  • Launching a £4.8 billion Levelling Up Fund, investing in infrastructure that will improve people’s everyday life. The Fund will invest in local infrastructure that has a visible impact on people and their communities, such as town centre and high street regeneration, local transport, and cultural projects. At least £800 million of this fund will go towards Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
  • Investing £830 million in high streets though our Future High Streets Fund, supporting their recovery from the pandemic and driving long term growth. Up to £830 million through the fund will be invested in 72 areas across England, funding regeneration plans and projects such as improvements to transport infrastructure, new homes and the transformation of underused spaces.
  • Establishing eight Freeports across England, boosting jobs, investment and communities now that we have left the EU. To encourage free trade and bring investment to all regions of the country through lower taxes and cheaper customs, we are creating eight freeports in England: Teesside, Humberside, Felixstowe, Thames Gateway, Solent, Plymouth, Liverpool and the East Midlands.

Levelling up public services by:

  • Investing record amounts in our NHS, so that people have access to the best care wherever they live. We are investing an additional £33.9 billion in frontline NHS services every year by 2023-24, the largest and longest funding settlement in NHS history, and we are also delivering £3.7 billion to build 40 hospitals and recruiting 50,000 new nurses in England.
  • Giving our police the powers and resources they need to cut crime and keep our streets safe. We are delivering a £636 million funding boost for police forces this year, including £400 million to continue recruiting 20,000 extra police officers by 2023, of which we have already delivered the first 8,871.
  • Boosting school funding by £14.4 billion over three years, giving every child a world-class education. We are helping to close the opportunity gap in England by increasing primary school funding to a minimum of £4,000 per pupil and secondaries to a minimum of £5,150 per pupil, as part of our £14.4 billion funding boost for schools by 2022-23 – an extra £840 per pupil.

Upgrading infrastructure and connectivity by:

  • Investing in and improving infrastructure, connecting people to jobs and places. We are making the largest ever investment in motorways and A-roads worth over £27 billion, connecting the country with HS2, and setting out our massive programme of rail investment across the North and the Midlands through the Integrated Rail Plan, building on our £4.2 billion investment.
  • Rolling out fibre broadband across the UK, so that no community is left behind. We are investing £5 billion in Project Gigabit, to target getting to a minimum of 85 per cent gigabit-capable coverage by 2025 and to get us as close to 100 per cent as possible. The UK is on track for one of the fastest rollouts in Europe, and for half of all households to have access to gigabit speeds by the end of 2021.
  • Investing £5 billion in buses and cycle routes across England, levelling up local transport connections. We will invest £5 billion to overhaul bus and cycle links, making everyday journeys easier, greener and more convenient. We will put 4,000 new zero emission buses on our roads, introduce more frequent services and open 250 miles of new cycleways.

Reforming post-16 qualifications

This week the government announced reforms to the choice of post-16 qualifications, making it easier for young people and adults to identify the academic or technical course that is right for them, to level up learning and opportunity across the country.

  • Great qualifications are essential to helping everyone – no matter their age of background – to get good jobs and realise their ambitions.

  • That is why the government has announced reforms that will simplify and streamline the current system, creating two clearly defined paths – academic and technical – for people who have completed GCSEs or similar courses, with apprenticeships, A levels and T Levels becoming the main progressions options.
  • These reforms will make the choice easier for young people and adults, ensuring that whatever qualification a person chooses it will be high-quality and lead to good job prospects as we level up learning across the nation.

Cracking down on crime

This week a tough ban on a wide range of knives, weapons and firearms has come into force, as the Conservative government continues to crack down on crime, protecting our communities as we build back safer.

  • The human suffering and hurt caused by the tragic loss of life through violent crime is unacceptable and there is no place for this in our communities.

  • That is why the government has banned a wide range of knives, weapons, and firearms, as well as putting a new legal definition of flick knives to see more of them outlawed, and putting bans on keeping certain dangerous weapons at the home. Anyone unlawfully possessing a firearm covered by the ban will face up to 10 years in prison, with up to six months’ imprisonment for possessing other weapons.
  • These steps will help to get knives and other weapons off the streets and out of the hands of violent criminals, protecting our communities as we get tough on crime and build back safer.

Two thirds of UK adults now fully vaccinated

Two thirds of adults across the UK have now had two doses of an approved COVID-19 vaccination.

This is two weeks ahead of the target to reach that milsestonejabs. 

It is a huge achievement to get to this level of protection against a disease none of us had heared of 18 months ago. 

Thank you to all the scientists, doctors, nurses and volunteers involved in the programme and to everyone who has come forward. The vaccine is our wall of defence against the virus.

Quote of the day 15th July 2021


Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Towards Net Zero - a greener transport plan

Today, the Conservative government has launched a world-leading transport decarbonisation plan, setting out a credible pathway for the whole transport sector to reach net zero by 2050, creating cleaner jobs and communities as we build back greener.

  • Decarbonisation should not be about stopping people doing things, like driving or flying, but about doing the same things differently, to reduce emissions, create new jobs and make our communities nicer places to live.

  • That is why the government has announced a world-leading ‘greenprint’ to cut emissions throughout the whole transport sector, including consulting on phasing out the sale of new diesel and petrol HGVs by 2040, creating a net zero rail network by 2050, ensuring net zero domestic aviation emissions by 2040, and leading the transition to green shipping.  
  • This will help to create and support highly skilled jobs in clean transport production, clean up the air in our communities, and create sustainable economic growth as we build back greener.

Investing in Britain's natural environment

Today the government has announced new £10 million fund to drive private investment in our natural environment and help tackle climate change. 

Through this landmark Natural Environment Investment Readiness Fund, the government will support 27 projects across England that will enhance nature and have the potential to generate revenue from the benefits our natural environment provides. 

Backed by a grant of up to £100,000 each, these projects will focus on tackling change and restoration from woodland and habitat creation to sustainable drainage. 

This measure is for England: but the Barnett formula will provide an opportunity for the devolved administrations to fund similar measures should they so wish.

Midweek Music spot: "A Little Night Music" (Eine Kleine Nachtmusik) - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Police launch criminal probe into SNP funds

Police Scotland have launched a criminal investigation into the finances of the SNP - the governing party in Scotland, remember, and the third largest party in the House of Commons. Some papers have covered this, here's one headline:

However, I am  surprised that this had not had more attention.

If the police had launched a Fraud investigation into Conservative party funds it would be top story on all the news programmes and would get wall to wall coverage in all the papers. Ditto if such an investigation were launched into Labour party funds. Probably even if it were the Lib/Dems.


Quote of the day 15th July 2021


Tuesday, July 13, 2021

My Conservative Home article calling for a pensions "Triple lock" based on a a wage index

I believe that Britain can and should keep the pensions "Triple lock" which guarantees that the basic state pension will always keep its' real purchasing power, rising by at least as much as inflation, and cannot fall behind wages as it did in the past.

The present version, however, of the triple lock, which made sense in 2010 when it was introduced after Gordon Brown's repeated smash and grab raids on pensioners' savings and investment, is not always fair or sustainable in the way it operates.

It sets up a "ratchet" which guarantees that over time the relative position of pensioners will always increase compared with those in work - and it can never ultimately be sustainable to promise any section of society that their income relative to the rest of society will go on increasing for ever.

I've written a piece on Conservative Home suggesting that the earnings element of the "Triple lock" should guarantee that the cumulative increase in the basic state pension must always keep up with the cumulative increase in wages and salaries, rather than making the calculation on a year-on-year basis.

You can read that article by clicking on the link below.,

Chris Whiteside: Scrapping the pensions triple lock would be wrong, but not reforming it would be a missed opportunity | Conservative Home

Next step on the roadmap to normality

Yesterday the Prime Minister confirmed that we will proceed to Step 4 of the Roadmap for easing restrictions on 19 July, while urging the public to be cautious as we move from regulations towards personal responsibility.

  • Thanks to the continued success of Britain's historic vaccination programme, the link between infections and hospitalisations has been severely weakened, with an estimated 8.5 million infections and 30,000 deaths prevented in England alone.

  • That is why the government believe we are able to move to Step 4 of the Roadmap on 19 July, lifting the majority of legal restrictions - however people will be expected to protect themselves and others through informed choice, such as wearing face coverings in crowded and enclosed spaces - where you come into contact with those you don’t normally meet - and using the NHS Covid pass in high risk settings.
  • Guidance has been set out for the Clinically Extremely Vulnerable on how they can keep themselves safe.

  • The pandemic is not over and cases will continue to rise over the coming weeks, but with 80 million vaccinations now administered we can replace the short term protection of restrictions with the long standing protections vaccines offer.
  • There are no easy answers and no perfect courses of action. Every government throughout the world has faced criticism from the relatives of those who died for not doing enough to stop the pandemic and by those who have lost their jobs or businesses for being too restrictive.

Testing, Testing

Today the UK's new testing megalab opened in Royal Leamington Spa, bolstering Britain's ability to tackle new variants of concern and future disease threats.

  • Testing has been instrumental in helping to control the virus and it is essential that we continue to protect ourselves and our communities in the months ahead.
  • That is why the Conservative government is opening the state-of-the-art Rosalind Franklin Laboratory in Royal Leamington Spa - using trailblazing technologies to detect new variants of concern and carrying out hundreds of thousands of tests every day, whilst creating 1,500 skilled jobs for the area.
  • The laboratory will be one of the centrepieces of our efforts to tackle this virus, putting Britain at the forefront of the global battle against Covid and helping us to stay ahead of new and emerging threats.

Tuesday music slot: Vivaldi's Cello Concerto in D Minor RV 407

Quotes of the day 13th July 2021

Sanjay Bhandari, chair of Kick It Out, the campaign group against racism in football, says that data from the last two seasons of football shows around 70 per cent of abuse originates overseas. “These are not football fans,” he says. “They are people who have never been inside an English football ground.” 

In part that’s because – while our problem with racism is acute – we don’t have a monopoly on being morons. 

Some suggest that Russian or Chinese trolls may have weaponised discontent around football to intensify political and social tensions in England. 

“It will be totally unsurprising if trolls started sharing bad stuff for these players, given that their goal is to sow public discord, and this is an excellent opportunity to do so,” says Savvas Zannettou of the Max Planck Institute for Informatics in Germany, who studies information warfare online. 

The abuse is, however, testament to the global nature of football. 

Brighton striker Neal Maupay received digital death threats after scoring against Arsenal in June 2020. The person who sent them was given a nine-month probation order this month. The 19-year-old perpetrator wasn’t from Sunderland or Somerset, but Singapore. “It is, from a perpetrator perspective,” says Bhandari, “a global pandemic.”

(Extracts from an article in the New Statesman by Chris Stokel-Walker about online racist abuse of British footballers and where it comes from which you can read in full here.) 

Monday, July 12, 2021

Boris's statement today

The prime minister made the following statement earlier today

"Like millions of people across this country I woke up this morning sad and rueful, but also filled with pride and hope and with thanks to Gareth Southgate and the whole England squad for the best campaign by any England team in any tournament that I can remember.

They made history. They lifted our spirits – and they brought joy to this country and I know that they will continue to do so.

And to those who have been directing racist abuse at some of the players, I say shame one you, and I hope you will crawl back under the rock from which you emerged.

Because the entire team played like heroes and I’m sure that this is just the beginning of their achievements. I say bring on Qatar next year, and let’s also dare to start to hope that together with Ireland our United Kingdom can host the World Cup in 2030.

Turning now to step four of our roadmap, we’ve come to a stage in the pandemic when there is no easy answer or obvious date for unlocking. We have cases rising significantly - with more than 30,000 per day. And we can see what is happening across Europe as the Delta variant takes hold among our friends.

We know we’re going to see more hospitalisations and more deaths from Covid. But we also know that this wave was clearly foreseen by our scientists when we first set out that roadmap in February.

And if anything, so far, we are in the middle range of their projections for infections and at the lower end of their projections for mortality.

And we also know that if we were now to delay this 4th step - for instance to September or later – then we would be re-opening as the weather gets colder and as the virus acquires a greater natural advantage and when schools are back.

And so we think now is the right moment to proceed, when we have the natural firebreak of the school holidays in the next few days. And Chris and Patrick will set out, in just a minute, how we are meeting the four tests for step 4 in England.

But it is absolutely vital that we proceed now with caution. And I cannot say this powerfully or emphatically enough. This pandemic is not over. This disease coronavirus continues to carry risks for you and for your family.

We cannot simply revert instantly from Monday 19th July to life as it was before Covid.

We will stick to our plan to lift legal restrictions and to lift social distancing, but we expect and recommend that people wear a face covering in crowded and enclosed spaces where you come into contact with those you don’t normally meet, such as on public transport.

We’re removing the Government instruction to work from home where you can but we don’t expect that the whole country will return to their as one desks from Monday. And we’re setting out guidance for business for a gradual return to work over the summer.

And as a matter of social responsibility we’re urging nightclubs and other venues with large crowds to make use of the NHS Covid Pass - which shows proof of vaccination, a recent negative test or natural immunity – as a means of entry.

We’re updating our guidance for the Clinically Extremely Vulnerable on how they can keep themselves safe and I generally urge everyone to keep thinking of others and to consider the risks.

We’ll keep our tough border policy, including quarantine for those arriving from red list countries.

And we’ll keep the test, trace and isolate system in place.

Every week that goes by we are getting hundreds of thousands more jabs into arms and our delay to the road map that we announced last month has enabled us to get 7 million more jabs in the last 4 weeks alone.

By next Monday, two-thirds of adults will have received a second dose and every adult will have been offered a first dose.

And it is the single most crucial thing now that you get that jab. A jab that could protect you and your family – and allow you, for instance, to go on holiday.

And it is of course only thanks to the vaccine programme that we are able to take these cautious steps now. But to take these steps we must be cautious and we must be vaccinated.

So please get that jab."

(Boris Johnson, Prime Minister)