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Member since: Mon Sep 7, 2009, 12:57 AM
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Actor Bernard Cribbins dies aged 93

One of those deaths you knew would come eventually, but nevertheless dreaded.

The news has been greeted by great outpourings of affection mixed with sorrow on social media. I think he did know he was very widely loved, which is a comfort.

His appearance as the hotel guest Mr Hutchinson in the Fawlty Towers episode "The Hotel Inspectors" was a gem of a cameo, and John Cleese later said Cribbins's performance had been so good he'd forced him to up his game to match. I think I'm right in saying that Mr Hutchinson was the only guest ever to have enjoyed the privilege of beating up Basil Fawlty, though Fawlty later got his own back in spectacular fashion, while still contriving to end up the loser.

Here's a snippet:

Dave Lee

In honour of Cribbins, they should reserve the BBC2 channel tonight and show this televisual feast.

[Twitter video]

More details about a very long career that thrived to the end here.

I'm in Scotland. Yes, I do.

Disappointingly, whenever I'm in a supermarket or shop (just about the only time I'm among people nowadays apart from close friends), I'm in a minority of close to one. Scotland had done pretty well in accepting the strictures imposed during the early stages of the pandemic, but now that clear official advice is lacking, people seem to have assumed it's all over, and COVID is "just something we have to live with".

Well, yeah. I live with it by masking up and trying to maintain at least a degree of social distancing when I'm among people in close quarters. It's not a big inconvenience. It may theoretically protect those around me more than it does me, but at least I'm doing all I can.

I had a disturbing experience in the supermarket the other week. It was a Sunday afternoon, and the place was packed, with queue at every checkout. I was trying to figure out which queue to join when a young checkout woman said she was about to open another station, so I should go ahead and start loading my stuff up on the conveyer.

I'd only just started when what I can only fairly describe as an old biddy (i.e. noticeably older than me) sidled in right up close to me and started putting her shopping on the conveyer. I told her she needed to allow me more room. She ignored me. Then she asked me to hand her a "next customer" divider, so I did so, in the hope we could stake out acceptable territory between my shopping and hers and her and me. Nope. She plonked it down hard up against my shopping. I hadn't managed to load up half my trolleyload yet, so I told her again she needed to give me more room. She said dismissively, "Oh just push it all along."

I didn't want to start a scene in the queue in a crowded supermarket, not least because I could see the young checkout woman's head was starting to hang as I'm sure the last thing she needed was a fuss at the beginning of her shift, so I just focused on loading the rest of my stuff on the conveyer belt and getting out of there as soon as possible.

I was just cashing up, when the old biddy called across to me with an infuriatingly sickly smile, "There, that wasn't so bad, was it?" That finally did it. If a scene she wanted, a scene she was going to have.

I called over to her, quite loudly, I guess, "You need to keep your distance. My wife has COVID right now."

This was true. My wife had been suffering from it for a week. When she first tested positive, I assumed it was inevitable I'd get it too. I'd been LFT testing myself every morning all week, but somehow the precautions we took (distancing, good ventilation, basic hygiene) worked, and I never caught it.

Once I said that, the old biddy went, "Oh, oh," and scuttled to the very far end of the conveyer belt (where I'd have preferred her to be all along) and huddled up to a guy in the queue behind her, looking at me like I'd just announced I had the Black Death.

I was just muttering to myself along the lines of "Oh, now you're seeing the value of social distancing" when the guy behind her (I'm not sure if they were related or not, but they were pretty close physically) called over, "Thanks for coming out and giving it to us all."

My response: "When did you last test negative?"

He replied a bit sheepishly, "Erm, maybe a month ago."

I pointed to myself: "This morning. This. Morning."

I finished up packing and got out of there amid a somewhat shocked and embarrassed silence.

I was the only person in a supermarket full of around 200 people who was wearing a mask or seemed to give a damn about social distancing when the stats were showing that around 1 in 20 people were infected.

If I'd been infected by that over-familar old biddy after the week of stringent precautions and daily suspense my wife and I had just put ourselves through, I'd have been livid. The old biddy was obviously oblivious to that possibility and was only concerned for herself when I made the risks all too vivid for her.

I hope she and the guy who called over to me may have learned something, but I doubt it.

Some in the scientific community are not impressed with this report.

A few examples among many:


Prof Michael E. Mann

This is NOT peer-reviewed science.
In fact, it's nonsense.

See @simondonner: https://twitter.com/simondonner/status/1548781210565898242

The promotion of bad science is unhelpful regardless of what agenda (denial or doomism) may be behind it.


Simon Donner

Lots of things to worry about in the world... the claim that Atlantic plankton are disappearing definitely isn't one of them. It is wrong, and ridiculous too. See this thread:


Jack Brudenell

@simondonner hi Simon, would be interested to get your thoughts on this article. It scared the hell out of me. https://www.sundaypost.com/fp/humanity-will-not-survive-extinction-of-most-marine-plants-and-animals/


Seaver Wang

"The plankton are dead!" Doomer reddit keeps dredging up only the most credible research to boost to the top page.
-the article has less text than some postal stamps
-no link to report
-research team's site really raises eyebrows

Just proof of an alarmist headline's sheer power.

Seaver Wang

The finding is bogus, full stop. I don't even need to read the report. We've had a thing called the Continuous Plankton Recorder for 60+ years.

In general any sweeping trans-oceanic finding like this is immediate cause for skepticism. The ocean + marine life are heterogenous.


Seaver Wang

A sizeable chunk of my dissertation research was on marine plankton in the western North Atlantic.

We sampled phytoplankton blooms off the New England coast 2015 and 2017 with abundances of hundreds of millions of cells/liter.

Oceans ain't empty guys.

Seaver Wang

"The team, led by marine biologist and former Scottish Government adviser Dr Howard Dryden, has compiled and analysed information from 13 vessels and more than 500 data points."


For those unaware, the guy has a history:

Prof. Eliot Jacobson

Google scholar shows that the principal author Howard Dryden does not have a track record of research outside of the GOES foundation. Clearly, ocean acidification is a huge long-term issue with ominous impacts. But the accelerated timeline is not clear.


Seaver Wang

Also "13 vessels and more than 500 data points" for a finding this sweeping in its assertions is enough to make any microbial oceanographer fall off their lab bench laughing.


Prof. Eliot Jacobson

From the GOES Project paper: "Climate regulating ocean plants and animals are being destroyed by toxic chemicals and plastics, accelerating our path towards ocean pH 7.95 in 25 years which will devastate humanity."

This is absof**kinglutely NOT tl;dr

Prof. Eliot Jacobson

The abstract is here (with a link in the abstract to download the paper):



Prof. Eliot Jacobson

Google scholar shows that the principal author Howard Dryden does not have a track record of research outside of the GOES foundation. Clearly, ocean acidification is a huge long-term issue with ominous impacts. But the accelerated timeline is not clear.


In a nutshell, where we are as a country right now


Mark 🇺🇦

I agree with the Porn Man. The Blow-Job Man should remove the whip from the Groping Man.

Theo Usherwood

You’re not going to believe this but Neil Parish is well annoyed about Chris Pincher keeping the Tory whip.

“C’mon let’s be fair,” he tells @heart_andy

[Twitter video]

Tory Party co-chairman resigns after by-election drubbings

This is one of the relatively few times when "after" in a headline does signify causality:

Oliver Dowden

My letter of resignation to the Prime Minister.

The Tories' spare co-chair is businessman, nephew of Prince Charles, and Russian donor-shepherd Ben Elliot, who was already on shaky ground of his own before these election results, this from back in March:

Conservative MPs call for party to oust Ben Elliot as co-chairman over 'contaminating' Russian links

* During a meeting last week, it was suggested the party was "contaminated" by Russian donations.

* Bernard Jenkin told Insider the role should be held by a member of government for accountability.

Conservative MPs have criticised Ben Elliot and called for the party to oust him as co-chairman over his links with Russian donors and his luxury concierge business Quintessentially.

At a meeting of the backbench 1922 committee last week, several Tories spoke out about Elliot, who was appointed as co-chairman by Prime Minister Boris Johnson just as he took the reins in July 2019.

The Conservatives have faced significant political pressure over Elliot's fundraising role within the party, and Labour claims almost £2 million from people with links to Russia have been raised since Elliot joined CCHQ. His luxury concierge business Quintessentially had a Moscow office until recently, boasting of 15 years experience working in Russia.
Julian Lewis, chairman of the intelligence and security committee, echoed the view that Elliot "shouldn't be there, and [Johnson] should make it part of the work he needs to do to shore up the party," as part of leadership troubles caused by so-called partygate, the source added.


As might be expected, Dowden was a champion of the "stick with Boris because we're stuck with him" horde during the recent vote of no confidence in the 1922 Committee:

He was also enthusiastically stumping for the Tory candidates in yesterday's by-elections.

Meanwhile, Johnson is holed up in the relative safety of Rwanda at a Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, possibly adjourned to a fridge. It remains to be seen whether his route home will detour via the even safer Ukraine. He may be in no hurry to get back. Here's the Tories' house newspaper (which Johnson has referred to in the past as his "boss" ):

1922 committee treasurer hints no-confidence rules could be changed in wake of by-election defeat
Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown said Boris Johnson will have to set out his stall to convince MPs he can still win a general election

The Treasurer of the 1922 Committee has suggested that the rules on holding a no-confidence vote in Boris Johnson could be changed in the wake of two by-election defeats.

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, the Tory MP for the Cotswolds, said on Friday morning that the party would be forced to make “difficult decisions” after the results, which includes the biggest by-election defeat ever and the loss of a Red Wall seat first won by the Tories in 2019.

The current rules of the Committee state that a sitting party leader cannot face another confidence ballot in their leadership within twelve months of winning the first.
Some Tory MPs now think that the rules should be changed to allow Mr Johnson to be removed from office if a majority can be reached.


Tories lose both Tiverton & Honiton and Wakefield parliamentary by-elections

Lib Dems sweep to victory in Tiverton and Honiton by-election in major blow to Boris Johnson

The Liberal Democrats have swept to victory in the Tiverton and Honiton by-election in a crushing defeat for Boris Johnson’s Conservative party.

Former army major Richard Foord managed to overturn a gargantuan margin of 24,239 votes to become the Liberal Democrats fourteenth MP. His historic victory is the first time since the seat was created in 1997 that Tiverton and Honiton has not been blue.

It also represents the largest majority - in votes not percentage swing - ever overturned at a by-election, defeating a previous record set in Liverpool Wavertree in 1935.

Mr Foord secured 22,537 votes. Tory candidate and former local headteacher Helen Hurford came in second with 16,393 votes.


Hurford wasn't short of hubris before the election, but this was her tonight before the declaration:

Theo Usherwood

The Tory candidate Helen Hurford in the Tiverton by election has just locked herself in the dance studio at Crediton sports centre.

She was in there for quite a while - much to the annoyance of the media, as the room was supposed to be available as an interview space.

Meanwhile ...

Labour wins Wakefield byelection regaining seat from Conservatives
Simon Lightwood elected as MP in symbolic victory in the ‘red wall’ seat won by the Conservatives in 2019

Labour has regained Wakefield from the Conservatives in a byelection triggered after a Tory MP was imprisoned for sexually abusing a 15-year-old boy.

The new Labour MP, Simon Lightwood, is an NHS communications executive who used to work for the previous Labour MP. Lightwood won with 13,166 votes, a majority of 4,921 votes. The Tories’ Nadeem Ahmed came in second with 8,241 votes.


We're talking about a country where a paediatrician was victimized back in 2000 by a mob

who thought she was a paedophile:

Doctor driven out of home by vigilantes

Self-styled vigilantes attacked the home of a hospital paediatrician after apparently confusing her professional title with the word "paedophile", it emerged yesterday.

Dr Yvette Cloete, a specialist registrar in paediatric medicine at the Royal Gwent hospital in Newport, was forced to flee her house after vandals daubed it with graffiti in the middle of the night.

The word "paedo" was written across the front porch and door of the house she shared with her brother in the village of St Brides, south Wales.

Dr Cloete, 42, confirmed she had left the property after the "distressing" attack. "For the time being I have moved out of the area because when something like this happens you just cannot feel safe in your own home.

"We removed the graffiti within hours, but what happened was terrible and it has been extremely distressing."


How receptive do you think mobs like that will be to any explanations after such an allegation has been spread, whatever the truth or lack of it behind it?

Framing: Sky News's Kay Burley loses it while interviewing RMT union leader Mick Lynch

Mic Wright

Kay Burley made herself look quite unhinged by the end of this line of questioning. Mick Lynch didn’t budge from being polite.

[Twitter video]

Burley reduces herself to blatant spluttering goading, masked by her repeated overpolite use of "Mr Lynch", when responding to Lynch's reasonable answers to her repeated questions about what his members would do if people tried to cross their picket line - "That's a picket line there - that's what they'll do." She eventually resorts to invoking the miners' strike as a possible model. Lynch is having none of it.

She tried to spin the exchange in a tweet after the event:


Kay Burley - not at all unhinged or flustered

Maybe Lynch was lucky it was a remote interview, and not in person. As one Twitter user observed in the replies, Burley has some experience of public affray when a lot less was at stake:

'Black eye' Kay Burley may face legal action after grabbing photographer by the throat

After the battle of Uxbridge court, Sky anchor goes to Ascot as ‘victim’ visits hospital

Sky News presenter Kay Burley could face legal action after she allegedly grabbed a photographer by the neck.

Friends of Kirsty Wigglesworth say she is taking advice from lawyers amid claims that her throat was injured in what her bosses described as ‘an unprovoked and inexcusable attack’.
During the scrum, a camera accidentally hit Miss Burley on her right cheek.

She then grabbed Miss Wigglesworth around the throat in the middle of the astonished Press pack.


Carriegate: No 10 admits pressuring The Times to drop Carrie Johnson story

If No. 10 and the Times and Mail thought that spiking yesterday's revelations about Johnson's failed attempt to land his wife a £100,000-a-year Foreign Office post would be the end of the matter, they couldn't have been more wrong. With the story by now having gone utterly viral, finally the Johnsons' "spokespersons" have piped up on the record:

Claim that Johnson tried to install partner in high-paying Foreign Office job denied by wife’s spokesperson

Downing Street has confirmed that members of Boris Johnson’s team intervened following the publication of a story about his wife Carrie in The Times, but denied that the prime minister himself contacted the paper to complain.
Mr Johnson’s official spokesperson confirmed that No 10 was in contact with The Times before and after the publication of the first edition, but denied that the prime minister himself had contacted deputy editor Tony Gallagher, who was in charge of the paper that night.

It is understood that no legal action has been taken by No 10 in relation to the story.

The PM’s spokesperson said that he was unable to issue a formal comment on the allegation, as it related to the period when Mr Johnson was foreign secretary from 2016-18.
The spokesperson added: “We were approached before publication and spoke to them then. I think we spoke to them after publication as well. I don’t know the exact timeline of it.”


The same "official spokesperson" repeated denials that the incident ever happened that had been issued by "others" and "Mrs Johnson's spokesperson".

One person who has a clearer idea of the timeline is senior Times journalist Simon Walters, who has a long reputation for reliable investigative reporting and who wrote the story, which fleshed out details carried in Lord Ashcroft's latest exposé, First Lady: Intrigue at the Court of Carrie and Boris Johnson, published in March, which the "first lady" dismissed at the time, again via a "spokesperson", in tellingly Johnsonian terms as "regurgitated lies".

Despite the predictable, albeit belated, denials, Walters - whose past scoops have included the furore over redecoration costs of the No. 10 flat funded by donors, among other all too regular scandals - isn't backing down:

Times journalist says he ‘stands by’ Boris scoop
Talking to the New European’s Mandrake reporter, Simon Walters said: “I stand by the story 100 per cent.

“I was in lengthy and detailed communication with No 10 at a high level, Ben Gascoigne and Mrs Johnson’s spokeswoman for up to 48 hours before the paper went to press.

“At no point did any of them offer an on-the-record denial of any element of the story.”

The award-winning political journalist adds: “Nor have any of these three offered an on-the-record denial to me since. No 10 and Mr Gascoigne did not deny it off-the-record either.”


Suspicions about Johnson having a habit of seeking preferment for his innumerable paramours might have been borne out by investigations into his lucrative *ahem* sponsorship of Jennifer Arcuri during his time as London Mayor, if not for the fact that his and his team's emails and those of Ms Arcuri from that period tragically went *poof" when he left office:

Boris Johnson and his team's City Hall emails about affair scandal 'disappeared' with no backups after he left mayoralty

EXCLUSIVE: Deleting the docs hampered the police watchdog investigation into a public-money scandal

Boris Johnson broke City Hall rules by failing to transfer his emails as mayor to Greater London Authority officers when he left office - a move which has hampered the investigation into his alleged affair with US entrepreneur Jennifer Arcuri. The Independent Office of Police Conduct has looked at allegations of Misconduct in Public Office against Boris Johnson when he was mayor in the context of his relationship with Jennifer Arcuri, after the GLA's monitoring officer made a referral to the police watchdog in September 2019.

But the probe found that evidence the watchdog believed would have been relevant to its investigations into the scandal had been deleted in breach of City Hall guidance. Ms Arcuri’s business had been given £126,000 in public money, and she secured places on three overseas trade missions led by then-mayor Johnson. Ms Arcuri has since admitted they had an affair but both sides have denied any wrongdoing.

The mayor’s office also handed her firm £10,000 in sponsorship cash “networking summits” put together by Ms Arcuri in 2013. Johnson has claimed "everything was done in accordance with the code” and “with full propriety” - and that he had no interest to declare. But revelations about their relationship have cast doubt on the former Conservative mayor's claims. The GLA's Code of Conduct says public-office holders including Mr Johnson should not act in any way to gain benefits for families or friends.
The GLA’s oversight committee is currently conducting its own review into the Arcuri scandal, with a report due out in the next few months.


I wonder whether the GLA oversight committee report will come out before or after a coming general election - and whether it will matter as much whenever it does, with Johnson receding into the past like an ugly nightmare.

Disappearing scoop: story of Johnson's 100,000-a-year favour to his future wife Ministry of Truthed

Ardent readers of the Times and Mail would have caught a flash of scandal yesterday as a story emerged that Johnson had wanted to gift his future wife and then mistress Carrie a £100,000-a-year Foreign Office post, only to retreat when colleagues warned him it would be beyond the pale.

The Times had a nailed-on exclusive, which was subsequently picked up by MailOnline and later carried on MSN.com.

Now all traces of it on those outlets have disappeared, leaving only screencaps and dead links to news aggregators which spread the story that are currently all over Twitter. But the Times article apparently did make it to hard print in some early editions, which presumably are now collector's items:


Lewis Baston

I bought the Times yesterday in paper form because my parents are visiting; was quite an auspicious day to do this as it turns out I have one of the pre-suppression copies. A moment - a very peculiar moment - in media history.

Prof Natascha Radclyffe-Thomas 💋💙
Replying to
@lewis_baston and @Louisescicomm

We're visiting my dad, a Times subscriber, saw the Carrie Johnson story trending and checked - seems like pre-suppression issues made it to the Cotswolds!

Here's part of what appeared on MailOnline in yesterday's early hours, with obligatory bullet points:

Here's the spiked Times article in its entirety:

And here's an archived version of the Mail's version of the story (the Internet never forgets):

Boris Johnson accused of trying to appoint wife Carrie to £100k taxpayer funded role in 2018

Boris Johnson was last night accused of trying to appoint Carrie Johnson to a top taxpayer-funded position while Foreign Secretary before he was blocked by colleagues who discovered they were having an affair.

The Prime Minister, who served as chief of the Foreign Office between 2016 and 2018, wanted to make his future wife his £100,000-a-year chief of staff before allies intervened, the Times reports.

Those close to Mr Johnson feared the move would have been a clear breach of ethical standards within one of the four great offices of state.

At the time, staffers learned of the Foreign Secretary and the-then Ms Symonds true relationship after a Tory MP allegedly walked in on them in a 'compromising position' in Mr Johnson's office at the start of 2018.

He was, at the time, still married to lawyer Marina Wheeler, his second wife of 25 years and mother to four of his children.
A source close to the-then Foreign Secretary and involved in the decision to block Ms Symond's appointment told the Times: 'It would have left [Boris] dangerously exposed'.

Appointing his then-mistress as Mr Johnson's right-hand woman would have been 'a far bigger scandal' than ex-Health Secretary Matt Hancock's infamous lockdown-busting kiss with aide Gina Colangelo, the source added.

Another anonymous source, speaking to the Times, described the decision to block Mr Johnson promoting Ms Symonds as one that would protect him.

'An illicit relationship with Carrie was none of our business, making her chief of staff was definitely our business. Our job was to protect him.'

They continued: 'We knew what was going on between them and that it was an insane risk to him to let him do it'.
Having split from Ms Wheeler in September 2018, there was little pause before Mr Johnson was publicly linked to Carrie Symonds, described at the time as a 'party-loving Tory aide'.

Ms Symonds had been a high-profile figure in Westminster for almost a decade, holding senior positions at Tory HQ and as an adviser to Cabinet Ministers.

She crossed paths with Mr Johnson after joining the Tories as a press officer in 2009, before campaigning for him during the 2010 London mayoral selection and working on the successful 'Back Boris' campaign to re-elect him in 2012.

By age 29, Carrie was made Head of Communications for the Conservative Party, and had a string of high-profile ministers backing her, including Sajid Javid.

Around the same time and Mr Johnson and Ms Wheeler were finalising their split.

After her affair with Johnson was exposed, The Times quoted an unnamed source as saying: '[Carrie] was one of these girls who would be at all the parties. I can't remember her doing any work that was really good but she was at every party going.

'The Tories love a social gathering and there were always a lot of parties for her to be at. The rest of us always wondered how she could afford all the dresses and designer handbags and the going out, on her kind of salary. Her friends were all beautiful. It looked like an episode of Love Island.'

By September 2018, with rumours about her friendship with Mr Johnson swirling around Westminster, it was reported he had been seen in Rules restaurant in Covent Garden with a 'young attractive' blonde woman.

They are said to have spent two hours at a corner table while two bodyguards sat nearby. At the time, one onlooker was reported as saying: 'It seemed quite an intimate meal and hardly anything to do with any great matters of State.'

Firmer evidence emerged in the form of 'mischievous text messages from Boris' which Ms Symonds showed to friends at a wedding.
Mr Johnson would later marry Carrie at the Catholic Westminster Cathedral on May 29, 2021 and was followed by a celebration in the Rose Garden at Number 10 Downing Street.

The Tory leader became the first premier to marry in office in almost two centuries. He followed in the footsteps of Lord Liverpool, who married Mary Chester in 1822 and was prime minister for 15 years.

The revelations come just days after the PM was rocked by the shock resignation of his ethics tsar who quit just 14 months after he took up his position.

Lord Geidt, a former private secretary to the Queen, released a terse statement on the Government’s website in which he said: ‘With regret, I feel that it is right that I am resigning from my post as independent adviser on ministers’ interests.'

A No 10 source said the move came as a ‘total surprise’ to Mr Johnson, and claimed that as late as Monday, Lord Geidt had asked if he could stay on for another six months.

Lord Geidt becomes the second independent adviser on ministers’ interests to resign during Mr Johnson’s tenure as Prime Minister. Sir Alex Allan quit in 2020 after Mr Johnson refused to accept his finding that Home Secretary Priti Patel had bullied civil servants.


I've quoted it in full, partly because it's hard to see how the Mail can claim copyright on a story it's disappeared (I'm happy to edit it down if the hosts or our mods object), and partly as a precaution in case that version vanishes too.

Speculation rages about why the media spiked the story. Some wonder about a "superinjunction", others more mundanely attribute it to behind-the-scenes armtwisting.

Any other guesses?
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