Tag Archives: evidence

Government is delaying Covid-19 inquiry, say bereaved families threatening court challenge

Satire? This image suggesting the Tories were lying about their Covid-19 strategy may be more accurate now than at the time it was made. Why is an inquiry into the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic being delayed? Is evidence being altered or destroyed before it becomes illegal to do so?

Families who lost loved ones in the Covid-19 crisis are preparing a court challenge against the Tory government, which they fear is delaying an inquiry into its handling of the pandemic.

Boris Johnson appointed Baroness Hallett to chair the inquiry in December 2021, and has said it would begin in spring this year. But spring is over and no terms of reference have been published nor setting-up-date specified.

Under the 2005 Inquiries Act, an inquiry “must not begin considering evidence before the setting up date” and once an inquiry is under way it is an offence under the Act to destroy or tamper with evidence.

So the longer the setting up date is delayed, the more evidence it is possible for … someone… to alter or destroy.

That’s the concern of the group Covid-19 bereaved families for justice, who are planning a judicial review into the failure.

Elkan Abrahamson, head of major inquiries at Broudie Jackson Canter, who is representing the group, said taking legal action is the “last thing” families want but they may be left with no choice. He said: “In the vast majority of inquiries a setting-up date is given within days or weeks of the chair being appointed, so this delay of over six months is both unprecedented and totally inexplicable.

“The consequences are extremely serious, as it only becomes a criminal offence to destroy or tamper with evidence after the inquiry’s start date. By failing to give one, the Prime Minister is opening the door to key evidence being destroyed.”

Not only that, but a delay like this means it will take longer, and be more difficult, to learn lessons from the pandemic and the government’s failures in handling it.

Perhaps most to the point, though, is this: Boris Johnson has claimed that he needs to stay on as prime minister to “get on” with tackling the issues that matter most to people – but instead he is delaying a vital inquiry.

He can’t say it’s because he had to deal with the challenges to his own leadership because he has already told us he considers them to have been nothing more than a time-wasting sideshow; he should have been handling the issues that matter – not diverting time and energy to his own self-preservation.

All the government has been able to say is that the inquiry’s terms of reference will be published shortly. Nothing has been said about the setting-up date.

So, what’s really going on here? And do we need a judicial review to establish what’s really going on at the heart of our government?

Source: Bereaved ready to take Government to court over Covid inquiry delay

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Can Johnson really claim he didn’t know Downing Street parties he attended were illegal?

Boozy Johnson: this is not an image of him at the Downing Street garden party on May 20, 2020 (it was actually taken in 2019) but it serves to suggest his behaviour there quite adequately.

The easy answer to the question in the headline is: no, he should have known his parties broke the law.

I say “his” parties because they were parties at 10 Downing Street, his home and place of work, taking place directly under his nose and that he attended in many instances. They were part of a “party culture” created during his watch.

And I say he should have known they broke the law because he announced to all of us what the law was – and it didn’t allow for social gatherings in a work setting, by the way. Furthermore, evidence in the Sue Gray report shows that his aides certainly did know that these events were legally questionable because they took steps to prevent the press from finding out about them.

Let’s discuss the party in the Downing Street garden on the evening of May 20, 2020 when Covid-19 regulations stated that “participating in a gathering of more than two persons in public was prohibited except where the gathering was ‘essential for work purposes'”, but had been amended to allow “meetings outdoors for exercise or recreation with one person from another household”.

Clearly an after-hours drinks event in the garden of 10 Downing Street, with more than 200 people invited to socialise with each other – even if socially-distanced – would have been a flagrant breach of these regulations.

It would have been a gathering of more than two persons in public that was not essential for work purposes, and it would have been a meeting outdoors between multiple people from more than one other household.

This did not stop Boris Johnson’s principal private secretary, Martin Reynolds, from advertising it by email, while other officials requested that tables be put out by the “Internal Events” team – which This Writer would have thought clearly marks this out as an illegal social occasion.

Alcohol was available at the event – both supplied by officials and also via a request for attendees to “Bring your own booze!”

In total, around 200 staff were invited although it is believed attendance was around 40 – still a massive breach of the regulations at the time.

Here’s the punchline: those arranging the event – including Reynolds – knew it was against the rules because they went to lengths to hide it from members of the media who attended a press conference just before it was due to take place.

According to the Gray Report, a Number 10 special advisor sent this message to Reynolds:

Just to flag that the press conference will probably be finishing around that time, so helpful if people can be mindful of that as speakers and cameras are leaving, not walking around waving bottles of wine etc”.

Martin Reynolds replied:

“Will do my best!….”

The report continues:

A No 10 Director declined the invitation and told the investigation that they had raised with either Martin Reynolds or his office that it was not a good idea.

Lee Cain, the then No 10 Director of Communications (a special adviser), also
received the invitation. In response, he emailed Martin Reynolds, No 10 official (1),
and Dominic Cummings at 14.35 on 20 May 2020 stating: “I’m sure it will be fine –
and I applaud the gesture – but a 200 odd person invitation for drinks in the garden
of no 10 is somewhat of a comms risk in the current environment.” Lee Cain says
he subsequently spoke to Martin Reynolds and advised him that the event should
be cancelled. Martin Reynolds does not recall any such conversation. In addition,
Dominic Cummings has also said that he too raised concerns, in writing. We have
not found any documentary evidence of this.

Referring to the event itself, it is clear that – once again – Boris Johnson attended and participated fully:

The Prime Minister attended at approximately 18.00 for around 30 minutes to thank staff before returning to his office with Martin Reynolds for a meeting at 18.30.

So he was there with Martin Reynolds, who knew it was an illegal gathering. He should have known himself that it was an illegal gathering, being the government representative who had explained the rules to the rest of us. But he not only allowed it to happen but attended and spent 30 minutes with the 40 staff there.

The excuse that he only stopped by to thank staff for their work during the Covid crisis doesn’t make sense because it does not take 30 minutes to make a brief speech of thanks. It seems clear that Johnson was himself socialising with staff, adding his own household to all the others that should not have been mixing at that time, according to the rules that he had put in place.

How strange that the Metropolitan Police who investigated this event, and must have known that it was an illegal party attended by the prime minister, chose not to fine him for this flagrant law-breaking! How convenient for them that their Acting Commissioner was able to dismiss this omission simply by declaring that, as far as he was concerned, all the decisions were above-board!

Reynolds, who subsequently had a meeting with Johnson inside 10 Downing Street, sent a WhatsApp message to a special advisor later in the evening, which appears to be about a story in the press:

[Martin Reynolds] [19:36] “Best of luck – a complete non story but better than them focusing on our drinks (which we seem to have got away with).”

In the light of all this evidence, it is not credible for Boris Johnson to claim that he had not fallen foul of rules in the Ministerial Code because he had not broken the law on purpose.

He should have known himself that the event broke his rules because he was the one who laid them down for us all.

His principal private secretary certainly knew that the event broke Johnson’s own rules, and attended the event with Johnson. Considering the contents of his electronic correspondence, it seems extremely unlikely that he did not mention to Johnson that the event was illegal.

Also, if the event was not against the rules, why was everybody involved so tight-lipped about it, to the point of hiding it from the media?

And this is just one of many such parties.

It doesn’t matter what Johnson says – the evidence exposes him as a liar.

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Is ‘the intelligence’ on Russia-Ukraine going to be Boris Johnson’s ‘dodgy dossier’?

Boris Johnson and Vladimir Putin: I’ve probably got another image that better-illustrates Putin’s “I own you” attitude to Johnson but I don’t know where I’ve put it.

Remember when Tony Blair dragged the UK into a war in the Middle East on the basis of a dossier filled with claims that turned out to be completely untrue?

A million innocent civilians died but all the politicians involved hoped – rightly, it seems – that nobody in the UK would care very much.

Now, Boris Johnson is trying to drag us into hostilities with Russia – with Russia, of all places! – because he reckons Vladimir Putin is about to launch a huge war in Europe for no very good reason.

Are we really going to accept that, just because the BBC doesn’t have the nous to fact-check it?

Yeah – the BBC…

Evidence suggests Russia is planning “the biggest war in Europe since 1945”, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said.

What evidence?

Intelligence suggests Russia intends to launch an invasion that will encircle Ukrainian capital Kyiv, Mr Johnson said.

What intelligence?

We’re being asked to take it all on trust. And our trust in “evidence” and “intelligence” from western governments that want a war to distract us all from the diabolical cesspits into which they have pitched us… should be nonexistant.

So Johnson is now traipsing around Europe, trying to get one of the grown-up national governments to agree with him:

No luck so far: German premier Olaf Scholz isn’t swallowing it and the only agreement he’s had from Emmanuel Macron is that the next few days with be “crucial for diplomacy”.

That’s thin gruel.

It doesn’t help that Johnson has made a claim that he’ll put a stop to Russian influence – financial and otherwise – in the UK.

But he has been responsible for inviting those Russians into the heart of UK politics, as This Site has mentioned many times in the past.

So Johnson has made himself a laughing-stock:

Nobody believes that Boris Johnson will sling the Russians out of the UK political scene. They pay him too much not to.

It’s money that keeps him in power.

And money and power are the only things that interest Boris Johnson. Don’t you agree?

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Why have #BorisJohnson and other #Partygate accused been allowed to read the evidence against them?

True to type: here’s a pictorial representative of Boris Johnson reading the evidence against him. Or writing his questionnaire on Downing Street parties, having read the evidence. But not both because that wasn’t allowed (as though it made a difference)!

This is damning:

It turns out the Metropolitan Police – who sent out questionnaires that carry the same legal status as an interview under caution in a criminal investigation – were the wrong people to ask.

It seems Sue Gray – the civil servant employed by Boris Johnson to investigate whether parties happened in Downing Street while the rest of the UK was banned from socialising under Covid-19 lockdown – has been giving Johnson and her colleagues access to all the information she has.

Isn’t that perverting the course of justice?

I’ll put you out of your misery: yes it is. It interferes with a police criminal investigation by providing information to suspects that will allow them to work out a defence that may not be true. Anything that prevents police from getting to the truth is perverting the course of justice.

So Sue Gray should be arrested and charged.

I’m willing to bet that she won’t.

Here’s the evidence of what she has done:

Boris Johnson is being allowed to read evidence gathered about him by the inquiry into the No 10 parties before answering police questions, a leaked letter reveals.

Sue Gray has granted permission to everyone under investigation – all Downing Street staff and the prime minister – limited access to notes taken about them by her inquiry.

The letter, seen by ITV News, says she is allowing the access “as an exceptional measure”, pointing to the “particular circumstances surrounding this set of events”.

It means Johnson will have been able (if necessary) to fabricate a story that accommodates the evidence held by police – meaning they would be deprived of the opportunity to question any discrepancies between his story and the evidence, that may have arisen had he not seen it in advance.

If you’re struggling to understand the implications, this is equivalent to providing students with a full set of correct answers to all the questions they are likely to be asked in an examination.

And what are the “particular circumstances surrounding this set of events” that mean Downing Street staff and Johnson himself merit VIP treatment, anyway?

So much for British justice. I look forward to hearing how far the rest of us get when interviewed about a criminal offence, after we demand to see the evidence against us in light of the “particular circumstances”.

Source: Boris Johnson allowed to read Partygate evidence gathered on him before answering police questions | The Independent

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Are government staff really being ordered to break the law over #DowningStreetParties?

What they want erased: Downing Street staff are being ordered to erase information on their mobile phones relating to the alleged Downing Street lockdown-busting parties. Note that this image from the May 2020 event shows Boris Johnson sitting next to the organiser, Martin Reynolds, with a bottle of wine on the table. And he says he didn’t realise it was a party?

This is damning: it seems staff at 10 Downing Street have been ordered to clear their mobile phones of any information that could suggest lockdown parties were held there. This is a criminal offence.

According to the Independent,

Two sources claim a senior member of staff told them it would be a “good idea” to remove any messages implying they had attended or were even aware of anything that could “look like a party”.

It’s on Twitter too:

For clarity, this is what it means:

Interesting, that.

Boris Johnson claimed he had changed his phone altogether in order to avoid responsibility for failing to pass on WhatsApp messages about the refurbishment of his Downing Street flat. Was that a criminal offence?

And Lord Bethell, the Tory then-minister responsible for awarding Covid-19-related contracts that bypassed the normal procurement system, replaced his mobile phone before it could be searched for information relevant to £85m of deals that are subject to a legal challenge. An offence?

If so, then this former minister and Prime Minister should be subject to prosecution.

Ah, but they’re members of Parliament and therefore above the law, aren’t they?

Downing Street staff aren’t. They should think very carefully before erasing anything from their phones.

In fact, they should probably take their phones to the police.

Experts can easily restore erased material anyway.

Source: No 10 staff told to ‘clean up’ phones amid lockdown party allegations | The Independent

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#Tories justifying #BorisJohnson and his #DowningStreetParties are getting desperate

Christopher Chope: he once blocked a Bill to prevent photographers from “upskirting” – taking photographs of women’s underwear by pointing cameras up their skirts. That’s the kind of support Boris Johnson has.

The lies – all right, let’s call them falsehoods – are getting blatant now.

Take a look at the following clip of Christopher Chope, the filibuster king, discussing Labour leader Keir Starmer’s demands for Boris Johnson to resign, after Johnson admitted attending a party in the garden of 10 Downing Street on May 20, 2020:

Oh, really?

Let’s see what Starmer was saying:

So: “The Prime Minister pretended that he had been assured that there were no parties.” Let’s check that.

That’ll be from Hansard, then – the official record of Parliamentary proceedings. Yes, here it is:

“I repeat that I have been repeatedly assured since these allegations emerged that there was no party and that no covid rules were broken.”

We know now that it was a pretence because he has admitted actually attending one. The claim that he thought it was a “work event” doesn’t hold true because he admitted realising what it was – that is his stated reason for leaving it.

“Then the video landed, blowing the Prime Minister’s first defence out of the water, so then he pretended he was sickened and furious about the parties.”

This will be the video of Allegra Stratton laughing while trying to work out what to say about the Downing Street Christmas party in December 2020.

In response, Johnson said: “I understand and share the anger up and down the country at seeing Number 10 staff seeming to make light of lockdown measures… I was also furious to see that clip.”

Getting back to Starmer, yesterday: “Now it turns out he was at the parties all along.”

And we know this is true of one party, because Johnson has admitted it.

The evidence was all there, for everybody to see, hear or read.

But Christopher Chope chose to deny it for what I’m sure Boris Johnson himself would call “political” reasons (as he referred many times to criticisms of his attendance at the party, during Prime Minister’s Questions on January 12).

I’m surprised the people of Christchurch don’t expect better work from their MP.

I note also that Chope’s fellow Tory backbencher Peter Bone has a Private Members’ Bill coming to the Commons soon, to abolish the BBC licence fee. I look forward to hearing Chope filibuster it out of existence, as he has many other such Bills in the recent past.

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How will minister be punished for replacing phone before it could be searched?

Lord Bethell: he previously claimed he never used his private accounts for official business so we know he’s a liar. Shouldn’t he be sacked by the Tory government?

The answer is that Lord Bethell probably won’t be punished at all.

But if he were involved in a criminal investigation (and he might as well be – as the awarding of many deals for supply of Personal Protective Equipment to Tory chums and/or donors who were incapable of providing it seems extremely crooked) and he ditched the evidence, he would be charged with a crime.

Here are the facts:

Labour has called for an inquiry into the use of WhatsApp within the government, after it emerged a health minister replaced his mobile phone before it could be searched for information relevant to £85m of deals that are subject to a legal challenge.

James Bethell, who oversaw the award of Covid contracts, is one of those under scrutiny over the way deals for personal protective equipment (PPE) and tests were allocated at the height of the pandemic.

As part of legal proceedings issued by the Good Law Project, the government is expected to disclose Lord Bethell’s correspondence including by email, WhatsApp and SMS relating to the award of £85m of contracts for antibody tests to Abingdon Health.

The secretary of state has a responsibility to preserve and search documents for information relevant to the case from the point at which judicial review proceedings were issued in late 2020, under the government’s “duty of candour”.

However, a witness statement from a government lawyer revealed Bethell replaced his phone in early 2021 and it may no longer be possible to retrieve the information about his dealings with Abingdon, although efforts are being made to recover them from his mobile phone provider.

The statement said Bethell had used his official email account as well as his private email account to send and receive emails relevant to the contracts, and that he had also used his mobile phone for SMS and WhatsApp messages. But it said Bethell had confirmed that about six months ago his phone was broken and replaced and that his new phone did not contain the phone data.

Government lawyers revealed Bethell had not been issued with a “preservation notice” requiring him to save documents because ministers’ official correspondence was routinely saved as a matter of course. However, this did not cover government business conducted by private means.

What does he have to hide?

When they’re under an investigation with legal consequences, people with nothing to fear don’t destroy the evidence.

And Bethell must know that the information will be available by other means – although logically there shouldn’t be anything to stop him from reactivating his WhatsApp, SMS and private email accounts. Why hasn’t he done so?

The fact that government preservation notices don’t cover business conducted by private means, while government ministers are allowed to carry out government business in that way and are trusted to duplicate it into the public system, is a huge opening for corruption.

And it seems clear that this particular minister has exploited it.

Maybe I’m wrong – and I’ll be happy to apologise of Lord Bethell can provide clear proof that he was not responsible for any wrongdoing.

But I won’t hold my breath waiting for it.

Source: Covid contracts: minister replaced phone before it could be searched | Health policy | The Guardian

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Will new inquest into death of ESA claimant Jodey Whiting show failure of DWP safeguarding?

Jodey Whiting, 42, took her own life after her benefits were stopped.

Permission for a new inquest into the death of ESA claimant Jodey Whiting has been granted amid concern that a government department’s role in it had been covered up.

Here is the announcement from solicitors Leigh Day:

“The family of Jodey Whiting has been granted permission to apply to the High Court for a fresh inquest into her death after new evidence was submitted about the effect on her of a Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) decision to halt the benefits on which she was entirely dependent.

“Jodey’s mother, Joy Dove, was granted permission by the office of the Attorney General following her submission that the original inquest into her daughter’s death was insufficient. The new evidence she submitted in support of her application included an investigation into the handling of Jodey’s benefits by the DWP and a report from an independent psychiatrist.

“Jodey, from Stockton-on-Tees, died aged 42 on 21 February, 2017. She took her own life three days after she received her last Employment Support Allowance (ESA) payment.

“She had been informed on 6 February that the payments would stop and the associated housing benefit and council tax benefit payments would also be stopped.

“The decision to halt the payments was made because following a reassessment of Jodey’s entitlement to ESA, begun in 2016, she had failed to attend a work capability assessment (WCA).

“However, Jodey had requested a home visit for the WCA as she rarely left the house because of her severely poor health. She suffered multiple physical and mental health difficulties, took 23 tablets a day and was entirely dependent on welfare benefits.

“She had made in clear in her request for a home WCA that she had “suicidal thoughts a lot of the time and could not cope with work or looking for work”.

“The request was refused, the WCA was set for a date in January, and Jodey did not attend.

“After Jodey’s death, an inquest was held three months later, 24 May, 2017, which lasted less than an hour.

“The coroner declined to consider the potential role of the DWP and their acts or omissions in Jodey’s death.

“Jodey’s family were unrepresented and were unaware that they may have been entitled to publicly funded legal representation.

“After the inquest a report by an Independent Case Examiner concluded that the DWP had made multiple significant errors in how it treated Jodey.

“Some of the failings had not been known to Jodey’s family, who were horrified to learn how many failings had occurred in the handling of Jodey’s benefits.

“The opinion of an independent Consultant psychiatrist, sought by Jodey’s family,  confirmed that the DWP’s failings would probably have had a substantial effect on Jodey’s mental state at the time she took her own life.

“Joy argues that the manner in which Jodey was treated by the DWP, and in particular the withdrawal of her ESA, caused or materially contributed to her death and that, had this not occurred, Jodey’s death would not have occurred when it did.

“Following the letter giving her permission to apply for a new inquest into Jodey’s death, Joy said: “What a relief to be granted permission for a new inquest into Jodey’s death. It has been a nightmare but I want to thank the hard work of Merry Varney and all the team at Leigh Day and everyone who has been helping me with the Justice for Jodey campaign. This is a big step forward.

““I love my daughter so much and this should never have happened. How could they say she was fit to work? What they put her through was terrible, but I hope that this will mean that Jodey has saved others from the same nightmare.”

“Joy is represented by Leigh Day partner Merry Varney, who added: “The Attorney-General’s decision is very welcome. It is the first completed step in the long journey by Jodey’s family to seek a full and fearless investigation into whether the DWP, and its flawed decision making regarding Jodey’s benefits claim, caused or contributed to her death.

“”We must now apply to the High Court and seek to persuade the Court a fresh inquest is necessary.”

“The application for a new inquest will be made to the High Court within the next 6 weeks and a final hearing may take place by summer, 2021.”

This Site has been covering this case since June 2017 and will report further developments as and when they become available.

Source: Jodey Whiting’s Family Given Permission To Apply For Second Inquest Into Her Death | Leigh Day

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Dido Harding’s evidence to MPs shows why Tories shouldn’t give jobs to their cronies

The head of Serco – not NHS – Test and Trace demonstrated the failures, not only of her fake Covid-19 response organisation, but of the system that allows Conservative ministers to appoint their buddies to important jobs – just by turning up to talk about it.

Dido Harding – whose qualifications to run a business charged with contact tracing people who may have Covid-19 include having been a jockey and failing to run a telecoms/internet supplier – duly made a fool of herself before a joint meeting of Parliament’s health and social care committee and science and technology committee.

This Writer didn’t see the session so I’m relying on information from Twitter sources – and it isn’t flattering:

It’s a good point to make because the private firms do not come up to the standard of service we expect from the NHS – and that the NHS would provide.

So now we see not only that private companies are being paid a hell of a lot of money to provide very little, but also that the public authorities that have had to take up the slack and actually do something are not receiving any of this funding to do it. What a bare-faced charlatan Ms Harding was showing herself to be.

Worse was to follow:

The conclusion? Some commenters resorted to satire:

But many drew the obvious conclusion – as epitomised here:

That’s right – and Boris Johnson, together with his colleagues in the Conservative government that he heads, is responsible for employing them, using a system that bypasses competitive tendering by claiming it’s an emergency and time is of the essence.

It is now a year since Boris Johnson was first made aware of Covid-19. He wasted four months pretending it wasn’t any reason for concern and then used that system to appoint personal friends of his who achieved nothing.

It’s time the madness was stopped and competitive tendering was reintroduced so we can clear out the cowboys and bring back the professionals.

And it’s time Johnson and his cronies were brought to book for their cavalier spaffing of our cash on know-nothing amateurs.

Strangely enough, it seems that’s exactly what is going to happen…

Source: Typhoid Dido proves fluent in management bollocks and contradiction | John Crace | Politics | The Guardian

Johnson’s ‘herd immunity’ is a nonsense: Covid-19 antibodies fade within months

Boris Johnson’s entire strategy for coping with Covid-19 has been proved to be useless  – according to the science.

Oh yes, yes – Johnson appeared to give up on ‘herd immunity’ when he put the UK into lockdown in March.

But for lockdown to succeed, we all had to stay away from possible infection until the virus had no way of reproducing and passing from person to person.

Johnson’s strategy ensured that there were always people circulating who could be exposed to it. Think about the NHS staff with their inadequate PPE (personal protection equipment), or care staff who carried the disease between homes after the Tories ordered infected residents to be sent there.

And Johnson has kept infection rates up by easing the lockdown for sectors of the community – schools, for example. Pub-goers. Commuters…

All of it was for nothing if he thought he was immunising the nation incrementally because it turns out that Covid-19 antibodies don’t last.

Like the common cold, it seems it will be possible for the virus to infect us all on a regular basis.

That’s the finding of research by Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS foundation trust – and also by the Spanish Ministry of Health.

So the easing of lockdown before Covid-19 was eradicated has done nothing but prolong the crisis in the UK; Johnson would have been better-advised to make the lockdown much harder (and he probably was). It would have been for a much shorter period.

But it seems unlikely this bull-in-a-China-shop prime minister will acknowledge his own stupidity and change course.

All in all, it suggests that the conspiracy theorists are right and he’s simply using the pandemic as a way of culling the population.

Given the evidence, why else would anyone follow a plan as ridiculous as Johnson’s?

Source: Immunity to Covid-19 could be lost in months, UK study suggests | World news | The Guardian

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

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