Voting record – Simon Jupp MP, East Devon – TheyWorkForYou

As a result of COVID-19, some MPs have been less able to vote in Parliament, and this will be reflected in their voting record.

How Simon Jupp voted on Foreign Policy and Defence #

How Simon Jupp voted on Business and the Economy #

Last updated: 1 July 2020. Please share these votes responsibly.

How Simon Jupp voted on Constitutional Reform #

Last updated: 1 September 2020. Please share these votes responsibly.

How Simon Jupp voted on Business and the Economy #

Last updated: 1 July 2020. Please share these votes responsibly.

How Simon Jupp voted on Environmental Issues #

Last updated: 5 February 2020. Please share these votes responsibly.


Note for journalists and researchers: The data on this page may be used freely, on condition that is cited as the source.

For an explanation of the vote descriptions please see our page about voting information on TheyWorkForYou.


Sasha Swire’s diaries are treacherous, socially contemptible, rude – and gripping -The Oldie

The plain, self-effacing title of this book contains its secret and its joke. The wife who was treated as a nobody turns out to be a deadly double agent. 

Diary of an MP’s Wife by Sasha Swire

Little, Brown £20

Review by Sarah Sands

In a moment of dramatic irony, David Cameron signs his own dull old work of statesmanship to Sasha with thanks for ‘love and support’. She accepts this warmly, while writing, ‘Of course, unless he is prepared to settle scores and wash his dirty linen in public, it won’t exactly fly off the shelves and I doubt he will do that as he is too much of a gent.’

The secondary joke is that it is not really the diary of an MP’s wife. It is a joint enterprise. Sasha Swire is mostly reliant on secondhand anecdotes from her husband, the former Tory Minister Hugo Swire, and his own rather self-satisfied quips and observations are polished like brass.

Sasha’s diaries have been treated by the Cameroons as the worst betrayal since Kim Philby. One acquaintance pointed out to me that Sasha’s mother was Slovenian – AS IS MELANIA TRUMP – and there is an East European deadliness borne from eyeing up Russia. Slav blood. It is a thrilling notion that Melania could also be keeping a diary…

Sasha and Hugo infiltrated the innermost sanctuary of the Cameron mateocracy – so what is the calibre of the secrets they have betrayed? There is nothing to worry the intelligence services, but there is plenty to interest Netflix.

There has been an understandable closing of ranks. The responses range from lofty dismissal of the Swires (‘We barely knew them’) to wounded gravitas (‘They did not see or describe the seriousness of government’), to the revelation that Hugo Swire was allegedly unfaithful to his wife.

Funnily enough, in the book this exposé tactic is associated with the May regime, who tried to take down Boris by revealing his affair with Carrie Symonds. It did not stop Boris Johnson and, in a different way, I do not think it will stop Sasha Swire, who has many more unpublished diaries still to come.

Her first volume is socially contemptible – and it’s also selling out. It is a twist that her agent, Caroline Dawnay, is related to the Johnsons. The Mateocracy turns out to be full of cracks. Treachery is everywhere. Michael Gove and Boris Johnson betray David Cameron, and Cameron responds by saying the Gove family is no longer welcome in his house. It is personal.

Cameron once said in print that a consequence of power was that he stuck to old friends, for safety’s sake.

This is how Sasha Swire describes in the book that circling of the social wagons.

‘The closeness of this circle is unprecedented. They are all here; the ones that eat, drink, party together, they are all intimately interlocked some from university days, some from the research unit, some later. We all holiday together, stay in each other’s grace-and-favour homes; our children play together, we text each other by passing the civil servants… This is a very particular narrow tribe of Britain..’

Never mind Kim Philby, this is Iago. A trusted confidante who harbours a grudge.

This makes the Diary of an MP’s Wife both compelling and shrewd. Of course, it is not how the protagonists would wish to see themselves portrayed. But there is, in its odd, crass way, a ring of truth about the book. There is no particular self-awareness about any of them but they reveal themselves by what they say. The character of the narrator is also undisguised. Sasha is seeking something – perhaps status – and does it by being consistently rude to everyone in a flirtatious, devil-may-care manner. Sometime she launches into policy tirades about Syria or Brexit, which must have been more tiresome.

David Cameron is the central character of the diaries since they cover his time in power and because Hugo Swire is a friend whom he unaccountably promotes and protects. Cameron is sensitive about the charge that his was a government of Etonians, because that was his Achilles heel. He was comfortable among Etonians.

He could be himself among them, not having to pretend to be interested in football, able to make off-colour jokes about fanciable women and the size of Michael Gove’s member, enjoying his grasp of the class and wealth distinctions of the Swires, and able to chillax in the middle of a crisis. This was his political weakness and Cameron has described the diaries as ‘mildly embarrassing’.

I reckon that mildly embarrassing is a good description. Cameron also comes across as a decent and loving husband and an extremely capable Prime Minister who rose to every challenge except the final one: the referendum.

George Osborne too is sketched in terms which may be selective but capture a political character: clever, calculating and a bit vulnerable.

Political autobiographies are about historical destiny. Political diaries reveal a different aspect of power. They are about houses and ministerial cars. George Osborne beats Nick Clegg to Dorneywood and plants his toothbrush there, as if it is a flag. This diary is about placements at state banquets, rivalries and perpetual plotting. It is modern-day Hilary Mantel.

This is why Sasha Swire is probably right in her damning assessment of David Cameron’s political biography. Nobody will remember his, and everyone will remember hers.

The pesky MP’s wife may have a better sense of public taste than all the players strutting on the political stage.

Sometimes the tone is horrible: the witticisms in the report of the Westminster Bridge attack, for instance. A politician complains to Hugo Swire that the lockdown means he is missing dinner and Sasha lovingly records her husband’s response.

‘”I hope the first course isn’t soufflé,” H says, which greatly tickles Norman.’

She goes on to describe Tobias Ellwood coming to the aid of a fatally wounded police officer. ‘Pictures are immediately beamed round the world of Tobias, covered in blood, being the hero. This might give Sir Alan Duncan, who has issues with him, a nervous breakdown.’

She adds a po-faced sentence – ‘This is not to dismiss what a terrible human tragedy this was’ – but the damage is done. The prism of politics and society, rather than humanity, can become repulsive.

She may also regret her attacks on the dead, both Jeremy Heywood and the tart references to the wife of Owen Paterson, who recently committed suicide.

Yet, on the whole, her vignettes and observations are entertaining. She is terrific on Boris Johnson. To use a non-Swire expression, Sasha feels ‘seen’ by the Prime Minister. And she is hopeful in return. ‘Yes, he’s an alley cat but he has a greatness of soul, a generosity of spirit, a desire to believe the best in people, a lack of pettiness and envy which is pretty uncommon in politics and, best of all, a wonderfully comic vision of the human condition.’

David Cameron was unfailingly attentive and kindly towards the Swires but Sasha’s Slav blood leads her to believe in Boris. I can’t wait for the next swathe of Swire diaries and the film rights for these ones.

Sasha Swire writes in her acknowledgements: ‘To all the Cameroons for not mentioning me or barely mentioning me in their memoirs… this is payback!’

Now that she is ostracised, she has nothing to lose.


What costs far less than £100bn, can detect Covid-19 – and is cuddly too? Owl’s readers know the answer

It is simple and pain-free, could be used to test for coronavirus in care homes, airports and schools, and might just be more realistic than the UK government’s £100bn “Operation Moonshoot” mass screening plan. Its name? Fido.

Nicola Davis

Around the world – from the UK to Finland, Spain, Brazil, Lebanon and Australia – teams of researchers are training dogs to sniff out Covid-19. And some say the idea of training hundreds of thousands of canine noses to check for coronavirus is not as far-fetched as it may sound.

How do dogs do it? At Finland’s Helsinki airport, where four Covid-19 sniffer dogs have begun work in a state-funded pilot scheme, passengers dab their skin with a wipe, which is placed in a beaker next to others containing control scents. If the dog detects the virus – shown by yelping, pawing, or lying down – the passenger takes a free swab test to verify its verdict.

Speaking to the Guardian, scientists said any breed could in theory be trained – a process that takes between two and 10 weeks – raising the prospect of pet canines joining an army of Covid sniffers.

Prof Dominique Grandjean, of the national veterinary school of Alfort in France, who is leading a research team using bomb detection, cancer detection and search and rescue dogs, said the canines were not sniffing the virus itself but rather tell-tale volatile chemicals produced when the virus infects cells, and released by the body.

The chemicals should be produced whether or not an infected person has symptoms, and only if the virus is active – suggesting that unlike current lab techniques, dogs are unlikely to pick up “dead” virus, Grandjean said.

Results from Grandjean and his colleagues, which are yet to be peer-reviewed, show sweat samples from Covid patients were correctly identified by eight dogs at least 83% of the time, with some making a correct identification in 100% of the trials they underwent. The team say they have since validated their approach in three separate trials, although the results have yet to be published.

Grandjean thinks the approach has potential to become widespread. “We can have one dog per retirement house that is trained and this dog would be able every single morning to check everybody, just by walking by,” he said. His team plans to work with a French organisation to provide Covid-sniffing dogs to care homes.

“Pet owners could have their dog trained in order to search for Covid, but not only for them,” he added. “If we had 10,000 dogs able to sniff for Covid, well, that means that every dog should be able to sniff 200-300 samples a day, so that means 2-3 million samples a day.”

He said it would be better to use samples from individuals rather than let dogs wander among crowds sniffing for Covid.

Another research project is under way in Germany, using saliva rather than sweat samples. In a pilot study using eight dogs and 1,012 samples, the animals correctly spotted Covid-positive samples 83% of the time on average, and correctly identified Covid-negative samples 96% of the time.

The lead author of the research, Prof Holger Volk of the University of Veterinary Medicine in Hanover, said the current “have you got it” Covid lab test correctly identified the virus was present about 75% of the time, and correctly ruled it out almost 100% of the time.

It took Volk’s team just two weeks to train their dogs – he said hunting breeds were best suited to the work – but the French team said any breed, including mongrels, could potentially be trained. Grandjean said it could take eight to 10 weeks to train a dog with no prior experience of scent detection.

Rowland Kao, a professor of veterinary epidemiology and data science at the University of Edinburgh, who is not involved in the work, said larger studies would be needed but the approach appeared to be simple, non-intrusive and “a very good addition to the surveillance ‘armoury’”.

Prof Ian Jones, a virologist at the University of Reading, was less optimistic, saying such efforts detract from the real challenges of mass testing. “All that dogs can detect is an odour difference,” he said. “For explosives and drugs and even chronic disease like MS, that is fine, but many viruses infect the same cells as Covid and lead to similar changes in metabolism – so the gas you exhale is the same.”

Volk said his team was working on whether the dogs can distinguish between different viruses, and Grandjean was upbeat. “Different types of virus have different volatile organic compounds coming from cell cultures, meaning [these] compounds are specific to each virus,” he said, although he noted this had yet to be proved for Sars-Cov-2.

Dr David Strain, a senior clinical lecturer at the University of Exeter medical school, said the canine approach was likely to be hugely beneficial.

“If dogs can be appropriately trained, there is a high likelihood that they will have a higher success rate than the current screening strategies, given that they will be able to pick up the scent from wherever it emanates not just for those who have Covid in their upper airways,” he said. “Real time” screening could be particularly useful when infection levels fall.

“They could work in ports, harbours and airports to limit the risk of travellers returning with the infection,” he said. “Importantly to the economy, all of this can be performed at a fraction of the cost of the ‘Moonshot’ program, and are likely to be with us much sooner.”


New coronavirus mutation could be evolving to get around mask-wearing and hand-washing

Covid-19 may have become more contagious as it has mutated, the largest genetic study carried out in the US into the virus has suggested, as scientists warn it could be adapting to interventions such as mask-wearing and social distancing.

By Josie Ensor, US Correspondent

One variant of the novel coronavirus is now one of the most dominant in America, accounting for 99.9 per cent of cases in one area studied.

The paper concluded that a mutation that changes the structure of the “spike protein” on the surface of the virus may be driving the outsized spread of that particular strain.

Researchers have been sequencing the genomes of the coronavirus at Houston Methodist, one of the largest hospitals in Texas, since early March, when the virus first appeared in the city. To date, they have documented 5,085 sequences.

In the first wave of the outbreak in Houston around March, some 71 per cent of the viruses were characterised by the mutation, which originated in China and is known as D614G.

By the second wave, which began in May and is ongoing, the D614G mutation leaped to 99.9 per cent prevalence. 

A tiny tweak in the spike protein of the dominant variant switches an amino acid from aspartic acid to glycine. The new mutation appears to be outdistancing all of its competitors. The graphic below explains more. 

The researchers, who include some from the University of Chicago and the University of Texas at Austin, found that people infected with this strain had higher “loads” of virus in their upper respiratory tracts, which allows a virus to spread more effectively.

One of the authors offered that D614G has been increasingly dominant in Houston and other areas because it is better adapted to spreading among humans. 

“Strains with a Gly614 amino acid replacement in the spike protein, a polymorphism that has been linked to increased transmission and in vitro cell infectivity, increased significantly over time and caused virtually all Covid-19 cases in the massive second disease wave,” according to the authors. 

Their paper, published on Wednesday by preprint server MedRxiv, however, did not find that it was more deadly.

A similar study published in the UK had similar results, finding that D614G was increasing in frequency at “an alarming rate” and had rapidly become the dominant Covid-19 lineage in Europe and had then taken hold in the US, Canada and Australia.

By failing to control the spread in the US – which has the highest number of cases in the world – the virus has been given more opportunity to mutate in a shorter amount of time.

David Morens, a virologist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), told the Washington Post the findings point to the possibility that the virus has become more transmissible and that this “may have implications for our ability to control it”.

Mr Morens cautioned that it was only one study that had not yet been peer-reviewed and “you don’t want to over-interpret what this means”. But the virus, he said, could potentially be responding –  through mutations – to such interventions as hand-washing and social distancing.

“Wearing masks, washing our hands, all those things are barriers to transmissibility, or contagion, but as the virus becomes more contagious it statistically is better at getting around those barriers,” said Mr Morens, senior adviser to Dr Anthony Fauci, the director of NIAID.

As a rule, the more genetic diversity a virus has the more prepared it is to evolve away from future treatments and vaccines. 

Other virologists downplayed the importance of the study, saying much is still unknown about the various mutations of the virus and how virulent they are.

Studying mutations in detail, however, could be important for controlling the pandemic. It might help to pre-empt the most worrying of mutations – those that could help the virus to evade immune systems, vaccines or antibody therapies.


The future of planning in rural areas – West Country Bylines

Before reading this article Owl reminds readers that there are TWO consultations on planning reform. Closing dates are October 1 for “Changes to the current planning system” and October 31 for the White Paper “Planning for the Future”. The mutant algorithm features in the first. These are very technical consultations but a handful of questions are really crucial.

Anyone thinking of making a response, and Owl encourages this, might like to draw on the excellent briefing paper prepared for the EDDC Strategic Planning Committee of 16 September (starts at page 12 and gives proposed answers to questions). The Committee, with cross party support, agreed to reject the “ludicrous” algorithm.

Mike Chapman 

Rural communities in the recently created unitary Dorset Council area are working hard and democratically to make Neighbourhood Plans. The bases of these plans lie in the traditions and desire for continuity of small rural towns and villages. This cultural heritage is under attack now and is further threatened by proposed changes to the planning system. The threat is from top-down development targets to be set in Whitehall, then from the probable long-term failure of Dorset Council (and others like it across the nation) to meet those targets. Such a failure will accelerate a developer free-for-all under the terms of the policies enshrined in the new Planning White Paper, issued for comment at the beginning of August.

‘Planning for the Future’ was issued with an accompanying fanfare from the Prime Minister: “Build, Build, Build”, he said.  This particular three-word slogan supposedly heralds a ‘New Deal on jobs, skills and new infrastructure’ and promises to ‘build back better’ in the wake of coronavirus, for the benefit of ‘every corner of the country.’

The essence of the White Paper is to:

  • improve the content of, and process to produce, Local Plans and thereby support national strategic environmental, economic and societal goals;
  • simplify the categorisation of areas of land into (a) ‘Growth’ areas – yes, you can build; (b) ‘Protected’ areas – no, you can’t build; (c) ‘Renewal’ areas – it depends on what you want to build;
  • extensively digitise the whole system from Local Plan to Planning Application and Approval so as to accelerate and automate many aspects of decision-making.
  • standardise a Community Infrastructure Levy, payable on all housing developments.

The changes laid out in the White Paper predate the onset of the virus. At their heart is the desire of this government to ‘level up’ nationwide. The White Paper proposes an enhanced central government grip through the setting of targets and national benchmarks. This centralisation will come at the expense of local decision-making on priorities and the diverse wants and needs of individual communities. The changes also risk becoming a developers’ charter by creating a free-for-all as and when local authorities fail to meet targets.

Why might such a free-for-all happen? Current government policy requires Local Authorities to demonstrate that they have identified specific sites for building to meet local housing need or other strategies they’ve adopted. New, standardised national projections of housing need imposed on Local Authorities mean many will fail to meet targets for actual construction and the forward availability of land for development, the so-called housing land supply. If this happens, under the current National Planning Policy Framework, local plans including all neighbourhood plans will be shorn of authority as the weighting of assessments switches to favour developers.

Is this likely to happen? It is happening in Dorset now and it is a racing certainty it will continue so to do. According to CPRE – The Countryside Charity (formerly known as the Council for the Protection of Rural England), the government’s algorithm for housing need in the county is almost 50 per cent greater than that defined in Dorset’s existing Local Plans and 100 per cent greater than the average number of houses actually being built. There is no chance the county will meet the required targets. Also, so-called affordable housing (housing offered at less than the local market median price) is currently a requirement of any development of 10 houses or more. It is disliked by developers because it lowers the attractiveness of the balance of a development. Developers go out of their way to avoid it. As the drive to ‘build, build, build’ comes on, there is a danger that affordable housing remains a necessary evil in the eyes of the developers resulting in concentrations of lower quality construction.

Aren’t we just being NIMBYs? No. There is a hard edge to this. Much of Dorset’s economic activity comes from its environment: agriculture, rural industries and tourism. If you pave it over, create larger centres of population, more dormitory towns and longer travel-to-work times, you start to destroy the fabric of the place. There will be promises, too – promises that the services and amenities, transport and communication improvements will follow. As they say in the aviation industry down here, “Pigs fuelled and ready to fly.”

But isn’t digitisation a good thing, using digital maps and electronic documentation instead of creaking paper-based systems? Having our house sale in the hands of an e-based Amazon equivalent is one thing; seeing our landscape and way of life forced to meet standards set by distant and unknowing hands with decisions being made automatically according to an algorithm is quite another. Digitisation should benefit communities as well as developers and must not supplant local democratic controls. There is widespread discontent about the impact of yet another algorithmic approach with some 70 Conservative backbenchers already demanding clarification.

Bourton in Dorset is a village of about 800 souls. It is 15 miles from any large town. It offers no employment opportunities, is on the edge of services and has made an environmentally focused, properly sustainable Neighbourhood Plan. Just because the new unitary Dorset Council is failing to meet its housing land supply target, should Bourton be greatly increased in size? Will this help solve the national housing shortage or just add to the local carbon footprint? Will the changes in the White Paper improve our decision-making or just create a developers’ paradise? Real progress will happen when communities are enabled and empowered to plan their futures by differentiating rather than homogenising.

So, what should be done instead of the White Paper proposals? The existing system does need an overhaul. Local Plans take too long to produce and are out of date the moment they are published. Planning applications and approvals are cumbersome and expensive. There is a need for digitisation, but not at the expense of local inputs and assessments and certainly not at the expense of local democratic accountability. In Dorset, many believe there is a good case to be made for Local Plans that:

  • truly take input from local people and reflect differing needs and conditions. There should not be a one-size-fits-all approach applied across towns as diverse as Weymouth, Lyme Regis, Sturminster Newton, Poundbury and Shaftesbury, for example;
  • strengthen key aspects of the rural way of life: agriculture and other rural industry, sustainable village communities and properly served market towns. There should be opportunities for investment in innovation, new industries and workplaces and a reduced reliance on carbon-intensive transportation;
  • deliver protection to our heritage of beautiful places and our environment. Plans are needed that apply a rigorous brownfield-first approach, require quality before quantity and reflect the joined-up needs of housing, communications, amenities and services.

In the policies and judgements that are applied to community infrastructure, we should see local democratic control that ensures:

  • targeted investment and appropriate partnerships that can address the housing needs of all in a community more effectively than the formulaic ‘affordable’ housing requirement or any successor scheme;
  • interventions that ensure the young or disadvantaged are not priced out by second home-owning or driven into low quality, dense housing with few amenities or services.;
  • priority is given to climate and environmental considerations to reduce travel-to-work, improve the efficiency of new buildings and create carbon neutral homes and communities;
  • pump-priming policies and partnerships to support new local business locations and other workplaces.

The government is consulting on these matters. The White Paper consultation closes at the end of October. The document contains the questions to which the consultation wants the answers – but many important questions are not asked. We need to find a balance between efficiency and effectiveness. ‘Efficiency’ as digital, automated, algorithmic management of our landscapes, and populated spaces will predominantly benefit those able to capitalise on the technology. ‘Effectiveness’ means that whilst contributing to national needs tempered by local factors, continuities and priorities, there is local democratic responsibility and accountability in our planning system: we need more of that, not less. As a nation we need to ‘level up’ by targeting investment rather than investing in targets.


Swire diary shows how Hugo’s fear of Claire Wright drove Tory about-turn on community hospitals 

Now that the diary of Sasha Swire, wife of Hugo, the former East Devon MP, is out (not just extracts in the press), it’s even clearer (see below) that the sudden Tory shift on community hospitals in 2018, after Matt Hancock became Health Secretary, was primarily driven by Claire Wright’s campaign to save East Devon’s community hospitals and Ottery St. Mary in particular.

Sasha Swire is completely wrong, however, to say that there was no threat to close the hospitals. The reason for closing beds in Axminster, Seaton, Ottery and Honiton was not only to save money on ward costs, but also to prepare the way for selling some of the sites for property development.

Remember that in 2017-18, CCG was constantly threatening to publish a Local Estates Strategy as a follow-up to the bed closures, and the Government commissioned the Naylor Review which proposed incentives to local NHS organisations for selling off ‘surplus’ property.

However the huge resistance to these plans from communities across East Devon caused the CCG and the local Tories to hit pause. After Swire was finally motivated to save Ottery (he had been prepared to sacrifice Seaton’s beds, because it was no longer in his constituency), Hancock was pushed into telling the Tory conference that ‘the era of blindly closing community hospitals is over’.

This doesn’t mean our hospitals are safe. Some like Seaton are still partly empty because the NHS has never put in the money to use them fully for local services. But it does mean that voting against the Tories remains the most reliable way to keep them.

(PS Hugo really does come through as a B’stard, and after reading his wife’s account, how could anyone possibly believe he deserved his knighthood?)

[Owl recommends visiting the Seaton & Colyton Matters site to see clear images and read the three relevant “diary” pages]


Something missing from the sensational Sasha Swire diaries?

Sasha Swire left out claims her husband had an affair

The wife of ex-minister Hugo Swire fled to David Cameron in ‘distress’ after claiming her ‘pig’ of a husband had an affair. 

Simon Walters 

Sasha Swire, who has lifted the lid on sex and political shenanigans in the Tory party, reveals in her new book that she dashed to Chequers, the prime minister’s official country residence, when her marriage was in crisis. 

Her ‘world was falling apart’ because of her husband but Mr Cameron and wife Samantha ‘slowly brought me back to life’, she writes. Mr Cameron even allegedly gave Sir Hugo a ‘ticking off’. 

The former Prime Minister and his wife Samantha ‘slowly brought me back to life’, Lady Swire writes

Lady Swire, 57, does not state in her explosive book, Diary of an MP’s Wife, that this incident related to an alleged affair involving her husband, 60. However, the Mail has been told by multiple reliable sources that she has said Sir Hugo had an extramarital relationship when he was a minister in Mr Cameron’s government. 

Invited to respond, Lady Swire told the Mail cryptically last night: ‘Three sauces [sic]? Is that Bearnaise? Peppercorn? Or Marie Rose?’ Asked for a more detailed response, she did not reply. 

In her book, Lady Swire lavishes praise on ‘family man’ Mr Cameron for saving her marriage. She salutes his ‘integrity’, arguing he will be judged well by history, before adding pointedly, ‘But he has been a good friend to me as well.’ 

This is the preface to her moving account of the day she fled to Chequers as a result of her ‘pig’ of a husband. 

She writes: ‘When in 2013 I felt my carefully constructed world was falling apart around me – ‘H’ [her name for Sir Hugo] being a pig and always away – I remember ringing him up in a distressed state and he told me to just get in a car and come down to Chequers, where Sam and he slowly brought me back to life. I can hear him now, ringing up ‘H’ to give him a severe ticking off, with me smiling on in gratitude.’ 

Lady Swire’s book describes a series of blazing marital rows between the couple – and flirtatious behaviour by both. A year before she turned to the Camerons in despair, the couple’s marriage was ‘in a difficult place’ and she ‘barely saw’ her husband, Lady Swire writes. 

Sir Hugo told Mr Cameron he feared his wife would to divorce him. Lady Swire says her husband joked he had ‘fallen in love’ with a ‘gorgeous’ 30-year-old female South American diplomat. 

Mr Cameron yesterday admitted that Lady Swire’s diaries, recounting his political rivalries and alleged sexualised comments, were ‘kind of embarrassing’. 

The new book recounts a series of marital disputes beween Lady Swire and her husband. She says that in July 2012: ‘I barely see him any more; he’s always in Ireland or the House or working in the constituency, and when he’s home he hardly speaks to me. It is midnight when he finally comes to hide in the corner of my cage, but it’s not from calm, it’s from exhaustion. 

Lady Swire’s book describes a series of blazing marital rows between the couple – and flirtatious behaviour by both

‘I flare up. It has an effect, because the next day he texts Kate [Baroness Kate Fall, Mr Cameron’s Number 10 ‘gatekeeper’] saying if he is not brought back from exile [a reference to his job as Northern Ireland minister] at the next reshuffle his wife is going to divorce him.’ Number 10 promised Sir Hugo he will get a new job. 

When the Camerons and Swires holidayed together in Cornwall in 2012, Mr Cameron asked Sir Hugo over dinner, ‘How do you cope? With her? Your wife I mean?’ 

Sir Hugo was duly promoted to Foreign Office minister in the same month. 

Lady Swire also recounted how in October 2012 her husband ‘looked guilty’ and declared to her: ‘I’ve fallen in love.’ 

‘Oh yes, who is it this time?’ she asked. ‘The Panamanian ambassador – she’s gorgeous, and just 30,’ he replied. ‘Thirty! Am I getting old?’ exclaimed Lady Swire, who was then aged 51. ‘Yes, Hasta la vista, baby!’ he said. 

Lady Swire says she was ‘due to meet’ the Panamanian ambassador but her husband told his wife her attendance was ‘cancelled’ on the grounds that it was ‘inappropriate’ because they would be ‘conducting bilateral talks’. 

‘Fine, I say, carry on flirting,’ she writes. 

Later, Sir Hugo was invited to Buckingham Palace by Prince Andrew, where ‘somehow conversation comes around to the Panamanian ambassador’. 

‘Have you met her?’ asked the Prince. ‘Have I!’ replied Sir Hugo. On another occasion, Lady Swire flirted at a Palace banquet during a Mexican state visit in March 2015, the diaries recount. 

Mr Cameron admitted that Lady Swire’s diaries, recounting his political rivalries and alleged sexualised comments, were ‘kind of embarrassing’

She tells an unnamed ‘smoothie’ that she is ‘a very fed up MP’s wife’ because her husband is too busy to take her on holiday. 

She talks of ‘getting a lover to take me’, and they exchange banter about him taking her to Corsica. The ‘smoothie’ offers to take her there in his private plane. When she says she hates flying he says she can go in his ‘super yacht’. 

When Sir Hugo asked her what she was saying ‘to that man,’ she replied: ‘He’s taking me to Corsica.’ She jokes she doesn’t care if he ‘bangs her up in his harem,’ she is going. 

Meanwhile, at a dinner hosted by the Camerons in November 2015 Lady Swire tells shocked guests: ‘I enjoy sex much more in my 50s than in my 40s.’ 

In 2015, during the ‘Sexminster scandal’, she notes: ‘Looking back on my own younger days the only person who patted me on the bum on greeting me was one David Cameron.’ 

At the time when a number of MPs were being accused of sexual misdemeanours, Lady Swire says she was ‘assured’ by Sir Hugo ‘he has not partaken in any groping himself’. 

Sir Hugo was invited to Buckingham Palace by Prince Andrew, where ‘somehow conversation comes around to the Panamanian ambassador’

‘Time will tell,’ she reflects, adding lightheartedly: ‘He is that age where he needs more of it and is getting less.’ 

But despite all their sniping, Lady Swire says her husband is the hero of her book for ‘riding the political tiger’. 

Elsewhere in the book, Lady Swire claims she was propositioned by Mr Cameron in 2011 when their families were on holiday in Cornwall. ‘At one point, on the coastal path, he (Cameron) asks me not to walk ahead of him. 

‘Why?’ I ask, and he says: ‘Because that scent you are wearing is affecting my pheromones. It makes me want to grab you and push you into the bushes and give you one!’ 

When the Mail went to her home in Devon last night, she declined to comment. 

When asked for a comment on the claims that Lady Swire had included a coded reference to an alleged affair involving her husband in her book, her literary agent Caroline Dawnay replied, ‘Have fun’, and put the phone down. 

Sir Hugo did not reply to requests for a response. 

More bitchy jibes from Sasha the slasher…

Cameron’s black dog:

Lady Swire describes how the ‘black dog’ of despair ‘descended upon David Cameron’ as his premiership hit trouble in 2012, when he and George Osborne were ‘at their lowest ebb’. 

The then-prime minister could ‘see it all unravelling before his eyes’ and said it was ‘like watching a version of (computer game) Angry Birds: all governments in Europe falling. He’s wondering whether his is next’. 

Mr Cameron backed a bizarre plan to use IKEA to stop marital rows over flat-pack furniture, the book claims. The idea was part of a Number 10 ‘relationship agenda’ dreamed up by his ex-aide Steve Hilton. 

The plan was to print ‘ten top tips on relationships in IKEA flat packs’ to help couples deal with the stress of putting up their wardrobes, says Lady Swire. 

Cameron was ‘genuinely excited’ by the proposal but an aide told him he was in danger of ‘looking like Prince Charles talking to plants’. 

Wives’ curtain spat 

The ex-minister’s wife risks being accused of poor taste for saying she was ‘p***ed off’ by Rose Paterson, the late wife of former cabinet member Owen Paterson, in a row over curtains. 

Mrs Paterson, 63, was found dead in woodlands near her family home in June on her husband’s birthday. Lady Swire said she was ‘fuming’ with Mrs Paterson’s ‘removal of two sets of curtains’ from the Swires’ flat at Hillsborough Castle in Northern Ireland in 2011. 

As fellow Northern Ireland ministers, Sir Hugo and Mr Paterson had grace and favour apartments at the castle. 

‘She decided ours would be better suited to her sitting room and promptly took them without a by your leave. We now have a frothing Colefax and Fowler floral confection completely out of keeping with our interiors. I rant at ‘H’ (her term for Sir Hugo).’ 

When Sir Hugo tells her ‘calm down, dear!’ and reminds her Rose was the husband of his boss, Lady Swire spits: ‘I don’t care who she is, it’s bloody bad manners! I’m going straight to the top on this one.’ 

Incredibly, she complained to David Cameron about ‘the curtain spat’. She protests: ‘The truth is those Patersons really p*** me off.’ 

Rachel the ‘tornado’ 

Lady Swire complains that Boris Johnson’s sister, journalist Rachel, ‘the equivalent of a human tornado’, came over to ‘harangue’ her over government plans to shake up the forestry industry when she was dining at a ‘Notting Hill eaterie’ with David Cameron’s Number 10 aide Kate [now Baroness] Fall. 

When Fall played down the issue, Miss Johnson said: ‘That’s a complete lie, Kate.’ 

Miss Johnson is ‘a violent dangerous rotating column of air that’ threatens to ‘lift us off our seats’, says Lady Swire in the book. 

‘Oily’ Hunt 

She mocks ‘oily’ ex-foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt for being the first to give up his official car in ‘in his usual mad PR dash’. 

Lady Swire says sports minister Hugh Robertson said of Mr Hunt: ‘It’s alright for him, he’s rich. He can get a taxi home.’ 

Brad Pitt’s ears 

When Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt attended a 2014 Foreign Office seminar hosted by foreign secretary William Hague, Sir Hugo was distracted by Pitt’s ears. 

He claims ‘one of Pitt’s ears doesn’t match the other – and he wears high heels, so there! He’s not perfect’. 

When Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt attended a 2014 Foreign Office seminar hosted by foreign secretary William Hague, Sir Hugo was distracted by Pitt’s ears.

‘Swivel hips’ envoy 

China’s ambassador in London is cruelly mocked as ‘Old Swivel Hips’ in the book. 

Lady Swire says she and her Foreign Office minister husband gave Liu Xiaoming the nickname because of ‘his ability to turn between two opposing systems’. 

She says ‘Swivel Hips’ had Downing Street officials ‘screaming at the walls’ over his threat to scrap a visit by Chinese premier Li Keqiang unless he met the Queen during his 2014 trip to the UK. 

When Mr Li arrived at Heathrow he demanded the red carpet, which Lady Swire says was more like a ‘bath mat,’ was replaced by an ‘Oscar-night carpet stretching all the way up to the plane. 

Sir Hugo told Downing Street ‘Swivel Hips needed taking down a peg or two’. 

More brandy, bishop? 

The ex-archbishop of York, John Sentamu, said David Cameron ‘lacked backbone’ as he drank brandy with Sir Hugo during a stay at Hillsborough Castle in Belfast in 2012. 

Lady Swire says: ‘As the brandy takes effect the dog-collarless Archbishop becomes increasingly robust. 

Dr Sentamu asks for another brandy to take to bed and ‘rolls down the corridor glass in hand’. 

‘Puffed-up’ Fellowes 

Lady Swire scorns ‘puffed-up’ Downton Abbey writer Julian Fellowes and his ‘eccentric’ wife Emma at a shooting weekend. 

Lord Fellowes was ‘eloquent and intelligent but faintly ridiculous’ and ‘obsessed with social hierarchy and nostalgia’. 

She said his ‘turban-wearing’ wife was ‘ Julian’s add-on and sticks up her hand to seek permission from him to interrupt’. 

‘Sad’ Hezza 

At a gathering of Tory grandees at Michael Heseltine’s home in 2012, the former deputy prime minister plays a prank by claiming the Queen has asked him to replace David Cameron as PM. 

He goes round the dinner table handing out ‘cabinet jobs’ to guests, including Lady Swire’s father, Sir John Nott, defence secretary in Margaret Thatcher’s administration. Her father said it was ‘all a bit sad’. 

‘Mad’ Dorries

Nadine Dorries, now minister for mental health, was branded ‘mad’ after she attacked ‘arrogant posh boys’ David Cameron and George Osborne in 2012. 

‘The old criticism is back to haunt them,’ says Lady Swire. 

‘This time it’s promoted by Mad Nad Dorries who accuses DC and GO of being ‘arrogant posh boys’ (yes, and the news is?) 


New coronavirus cases confirmed across Devon and Cornwall double

The total number of new coronavirus cases confirmed in the last seven days has more than double across Devon and Cornwall – but some areas have seen a fall.

Daniel Clark 

Government statistics show that 365 new cases have been confirmed across the region in the past seven days in both pillar 1 data from tests carried out by the NHS and pillar 2 data from commercial partners, compared to 155 new cases confirmed last week.

The number of new cases confirmed in Cornwall has tripled, going from 60 to 179, while Plymouth has seen a small rise from 45 to 74. In Torbay, cases have increased ninefold, although from a 2 to 18, while in the Devon County Council area, they have nearly doubled, from 48 to 96.

Of the 365 new cases, 179 were in Cornwall, with 11 in East Devon, 50 in Exeter, 2 in Mid Devon, 6 in North Devon, 74 in Plymouth, 15 in the South Hams, 7 in Teignbridge, 18 in Torbay, 1 in Torridge, and 2 in West Devon.

Mid Devon and Torridge have seen a fall in cases compared to the previous week, while numbers for Teignbridge and West Devon have remained the same.

Those four areas, plus North Devon, are among the lowest ten places in the country in terms of cases per 100,000 population.

Of the 365 new cases confirmed, 303 of the cases have a specimen date of between September 18 and September 24, with some of the other 62 cases dated back to August, although the majority had a specimen date between September 14-17.

Of the 303 of the cases had a specimen date of between September 18 and September 24, 147 of Cornwall cases occurred in that period, with 9 in East Devon, 47 in Exeter, 5 in North Devon, 14 in the South Hams, 6 in Teignbridge, 61 in Plymouth, 12 in Torbay, 1 in Torridge, and 1 in West Devon. Mid Devon has not seen a case by specimen date since September 17.

By specimen date, the most recent case in Torbay is September 24, Cornwall, Plymouth, Exeter, North Devon, the South Hams, Teignbridge and Torridge from September 23, East Devon and West Devon September 21, and September 17 for Mid Devon.

While the number of cases in Devon have significantly risen, more than half of the cases are linked to students at the University of Exeter, who recently arrived for the start of term already having the virus, and who have inadvertently passed it on to their housemates.

All of the Exeter cases, and their households, are self-isolating and following public health advice, and there is no evidence at this stage of the virus spreading into the wider community.

While in Cornwall, a large number of the cases, up to 88, are believed to be linked to an outbreak last week at the Pilgrim’s Pride factory in Pool.

Of the cases with a specimen date of between September 15 to 21, there are currently 23 clusters where three of more cases have been confirmed in a Middle Super Output Area – three in Devon, eight in Plymouth, and 12 in Cornwall.

There is a cluster of four cases in Totnes Town and three in Yealmpton, Modbury & Aveton Gifford in the South Hams, and 23 in Pennsylvania and University in Exeter.

In Plymouth, Plympton Chaddlewood, St Budeaux, Cattedown & Prince Rock, City Centre, Barbican & Sutton Harbour have clusters of 3, with Southway and Derriford and Estover 4, Keyham 5, and Mutley 11.

In Cornwall, there is a cluster of 3 in Bodmin East and St Agnes & Mount Hawke , 4 in Redruth North, Lanreath, Pelynt & Polraun, Crowan, Wendron & Stithians, and Illogan & Portreath, 6 in Camborne South, 7 in Camborne West and Redruth South, 13 in Camborne East, 16 in Kingsand, Antony & Maryfield, and 23 in Pool & Illogan Highway.

And while there has been a rise in cases across the region from previous figures, the number of people in hospital with coronavirus has continued to remain relatively low compared to the rest of the country.

In the South West, the figure has risen from 15 as of last Friday to 34 as of today, with only three patients on ventilation. That figure on Wednesday had risen to 36, and new admissions have fallen from numbers earlier in the week.

No new deaths across Devon and Cornwall were recorded in the most weekly ONS figures.

The R Rate for the South West is now being estimated as between 1.1 and 1.4,

In total, Torridge has had 71 positive cases, West Devon 81, with 142 in the South Hams, 153 in North Devon, 241 in Mid Devon, 256 in Teignbridge, 294 in East Devon, 338 in Torbay 353 in Exeter, 912 in Plymouth and 1265 in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

Torridge remains the place in England with the lowest overall positivity rate, and is 3rd in the overall table behind Na h-Eileanan Siar (Outer Hebrides) and the Orkney Islands.

Including Scotland and Wales as well, West Devon is 6th, North Devon 8th, South Hams 9th, Teignbridge 11 th , East Devon 14 th , Cornwall 16 th , Torbay 24th, Exeter 32 nd Mid Devon 43rd and Plymouth 63rd of the 369 regions.

The COVID-19 cases are identified by taking specimens from people and sending these specimens to laboratories around the UK to be tested. If the test is positive, this is a referred to as a lab-confirmed case.

Confirmed positive cases are matched to ONS geographical area codes using the home postcode of the person tested.


Rapid rise in cases takes numbers back to May levels in just 3 weeks /post/incidence-update-sept-25

According to the latest COVID Symptom Study app figures, there are currently,16,130 daily new symptomatic cases of COVID in the UK on average over the two weeks up to 20 September (excluding care homes). The number of daily new cases continues to climb in the UK, with the highest numbers still in the North of England and the Midlands with London playing catch up.

The R values for the UK are currently England 1.4, Scotland 1.3 and Wales 1.4.

The latest figures were based on the data from 6,847 swab tests done between 7 September to 20 September.

Prevalence figures

The latest prevalence figures estimate that 147,498 people currently have symptomatic COVID in the UK, this figure has more than doubled since last week (69,686), for the second week in a row. This figure does not include long term COVID sufferers. Worryingly, in the North West, numbers have tripled in the last seven days from 12,544 to 36,316 estimated cases. In the North East and Yorkshire numbers have more than doubled from 12,916 to 27,731. This doubling of cases is also seen in London where cases have gone from 9,291 to 18,200 a significant jump in numbers. A full regional breakdown can be found here.

COVID Symptom Study Watch List

The COVID Symptom Study app’s Watch List this week has been extended to include 25 regions of the UK. All 25 regions have seen a huge increase in the number of COVID cases, meaning that all areas are of concern with many like Manchester and Glasgow affecting 1 % of the population. As COVID-19 continues to spread widely across the UK the COVID Symptom Study app Watch List will become less relevant.

Tim Spector, Professor of Genetic Epidemiology at King’s College London, comments: 

“The number of cases in the UK continues to rise at an alarming rate as we are seeing figures doubling weekly across the country, in particular we are worried about places like London and other major cities like Manchester, Belfast and Glasgow where cases are surging and the R value is around 1.4.

The government has confirmed that our data from our loyal app users  is playing a critical role and currently providing the most up-to-date figures. This is down to the way our app works, as a survey with millions of data points, we are able to produce data approximately 3 days ahead of the ONS’s household survey. We also have a greater number of positive swab tests, 151 positive tests in two weeks, around three times more than the ONS survey.

Having more positive swab tests and millions of people logging in everyday builds a clearer picture of what is happening in the different regions. We need as many people as possible logging in  the app right now, the more we have the better our data will be. We are urging people who want to help us track the progress of this second wave to download the app and log for themselves and their families.”

Algorithms? No just calculus this time!

Rishi Sunak’s Job Support Scheme took two minutes to unravel 

Tom Peck 

As all five feet six of Rishi Sunak rose to his feet at the despatch box of the House of Commons, gaining no perceptible altitude as he did so, it was as fine a moment as any to take stock of how we got here.

The empty air weighed heavy upon him. The hazard tape still stuck down to the floor of the chamber a reminder that these remain very dangerous times.

Can it really be a mere six months ago, in this room, that he was delivering his first Budget? Back then, a government minister, Nadine Dorries, had tested positive for Covid-19 a matter of hours before. Makeshift police tape had been placed over the door to her office, but everyone just crammed in regardless.

Sunak announced, to genuine cheers, that he had allocated fully £12bn to sort out this coronavirus business. This has turned out not to be enough, by somewhere in the region of £379bn.

Perhaps, in hindsight, it might have been then that it should have become clear that the government didn’t really have a clue what it was doing. But then, it’s easy to say with hindsight. Of course, many people said as much with foresight as well, but let’s not get too bogged down in all that.

He wasn’t delivering a Budget today. That quite rightly had to be cancelled. A “Budget” is just not the right word for the days in which we now live. Budgeting involves setting a spending limit and sticking to it. Budget hotels and budget car rentals tend to imply value for money.

There’s nothing budget about Covid-19. Oh no. That’s why this had been called merely a Winter Economic Plan, and it served to remind that, oh yes, winter is coming.

The furlough scheme, coming in at £4bn a month for the last seven months, was coming to an end, to be replaced by the Job Support Scheme. This was radical, in that it would involve actual employers paying their own staff to do actual work, rather than the government. Well, it would in theory.

For those of us whose job it is to attempt to find humour in chafingly dry fiscal statements like this, the smart move for some years now has been not to worry too much about the speech itself, but just wait for the aftermath. For most of the last 10 years, it has been possible to time, almost in seconds, how long it takes for a Budget to unravel, once the economists and the financial analysts get hold of it, clear out the smoke and shatter the mirrors.

The Job Support Scheme took about two minutes to collapse as a viable proposal. Its central premise is that companies can pay their staff a third of their wages to work a third of their hours, and then the remaining two-thirds, or 66 per cent of the cash, will be borne in equal 22 per cent chunks by the employee, who’ll simply lose it, the employer and the government.

It means that companies will be required to pay staff 55 per cent of their wages to do 33 per cent of their work. Alternatively, they can sack them, and hire somebody else on a part-time basis. It is hard to see this not happening. It is even harder to see how a waiter, a DJ, an airline pilot, a shop worker or anyone involved in, say, the events industry, can even hope to do 33 per cent of their job, when a pandemic has made it close to impossible to provide their services to customers who don’t want them anyway.

It was, however, good while it lasted. Some months ago, one of Sunak’s predecessors, George Osborne, pointed out that a popular chancellor is a chancellor who’s not doing his job properly.

If the halo slips on Sunak, it will also mark the daylight being let in on the magic. The magic money tree, to be precise, which has a decidedly autumnal look about it, and we all know what comes next.


OPINION: Is Honiton Town Council serving the community?

Compared with other town councils, Honiton Town Council sees a lot of action. Not so much the positive action many would like to see; but more legal action and active disputes, which show little sign of resolve.

Hannah Corfield

At just seven members strong, out of a possible 18, with one member unable to participate due to ill health; one might call into question the decision making capabilities of the six remaining councillors.

Another cause for concern is the fact that nine councillors, who appeared to have Honiton’s best interests at heart, were seemingly forced from their positions citing various problems with the current incumbents at HTC.

Added to that, at least two members of staff have been signed off sick amid allegations of bullying in the workplace.

It does not paint a pretty picture, by anyone’s standards. Especially given that we are experiencing the worst crisis in living memory. Strong, proactive, united communities are what will carry us through adversity; is that what Honiton Town Council currently stands for?

Former town councillor, Duncan Sheridan-Shaw commented: “When I first joined Honiton Town Council it was always my intention to understand what the community wanted and needed.

“I feel that if you choose to become a public servant you should choose a life of service – feet to the floor, digging in and sweeping up.

“Honiton Town Council does not currently fulfil this ideal, a professional and proactive organisation should become involved at a grassroots level and get their hands dirty, both metaphorically and physically.

“We do not see a council that is out and about, we do not see a council that holds open meetings just for the sake of doing it, we do not see a council giving up time to sweep up or clean down.

“I feel a productive council should be made of representation FROM community groups and not become representatives TO community groups.

“Our council do not host gala evenings or fund raising events; our council do not join in on fun runs; our council do not hold up the standards of Brand Ambassadors for our community – and for this I am abundantly embarrassed of our town council.”

In response, Mayor John Zarczynski said: “There are a small group of people making false accusations and sharing misinformation on social media.

“An independent investigation is currently underway into complaints made against HTC and I look forward to publishing the results, as this will vindicate the council.

“The councillors who have resigned, making various allegations that are totally untrue, should have stayed on to fight their corner, as they will now cost tax payers £10,000 in by-elections.

“HTC are working on many projects for the community; such as a Neighbourhood Plan, drainage on the High Street, allotments, reopening the market and the proposed Town Park.”


More Lowlights from Sasha Swire’s Diaries – second half packed with local refences

Extracts from the second half – so juicy readers are advised to take a shower to cleanse themselves after reading.

We are indebted to Owl’s correspondent for summoning up the stamina for tackling the second half so soon after the first, in the public interest naturally – read on:

Swire Diaries episode 2 – Lowlights 50-100%

Numbers relate to location in Kindle book

2018 continued

4531 – Constituent asks for steel street furniture to avoid a terrorist attack on Sidmouth prom – says hundreds could be killed as they are too arthritic to do a quick dive into the sea.  Sue [H’s secretary] and I have a laugh – as if ISIS is going to attack East Devon for God’s sake.  The only real threat of an incident happening there is with a trembling pair of hands of the gears of an out-of control mobility scooter [Remember that a young man, under terrorist influence, did plant a bomb at a restaurant in Exeter and it was only luck that meant it did not go off].

4591-  Jacob Rees Mogg “speaks like a plum orchard”.

4729 – West Hill Harvest supper.  People friendly.  H makes a long speech Colonel Peter Morrison very pro-Trump.  Fed up with local anti-Tory press, H asked how many of the 100 or so people have written to the press – 2 hands go up.

4779 – Commons sex scandal “Hugo assures me that he has not partaken in groping himself [!].  Time will tell.  He is at that age where he needs more of it and is getting less.

4791 – SS sets up anon Twitter account@torympwife.  H “understandably nervous”.

4828 – Megan Markle “a mixed-race American divorcee”.

4927 – The Dorchester all-male ball, where waitresses are told to wear skimpy clothes and made to sign non-disclosure agreements. H says he “can’t see what’s wrong with men flinging themselves a scantily-clad young girls (sic) – how else are they  expected to score and keep the human race from going extinct?

5047 – “Rather unimpressive Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon Alison Hernandez gave a radio interview telling people to write to Hugo re parking on pavements.  He tells her that (a) you are the PCC (b) this is a matter for the local authority and (c) not a matter for MPs and is not a good use of their time – his PA amends it before it goes out and she does with many of his letters.

5063 – West Hill branch AGM and dinner.  Usual stuff.  When H thinks he may be dangerously right-wing, “attending the West Hill AGM always cures him of such concerns”.

At the meeting a man asks a question and H replies in his “most oleaginous Sergeant Wilson manner …”

5976 – Budleigh Salterton AGM.  No more than 20 in the hall.  Jeremy asks for apologies, Jill Elson says my sister as she is stuck in Tesco’s.

5096 – H trying to get back to mid-Devon in snow.  Gets to Exeter, plans to walk to home.  SS says it “illustrates how thick he can be .  He is the type of person the emergency services want to kill rather than pick up”.  [a volunteer driver of a 4-wheel drive vehicle picks him and others up and takes them home – driver not impressed that he is an MP].

5107 – H agrees to host 3 lunches a year for “moribund association”.  Amber Rudd [Home Sec at the time] agrees to attend but cries off and so he gets Arlene Foster (DUP).  Tom Wright, a councillor from Budleigh Salterton was accompanying Alison Hernandez and furious it wasn’t going to be Rudd  “It was to be his moment in the sun” and threatens not to attend.  Turns out he thought it was Arlene Phillips of “Strictly Come Dancing” who was expected.

5129 – Much bickering about whether to buy a photocopier locally or online.  Treasurer behaving like Scrooge.  Jill Elson (for local) said she had a friend called Reg who can fix anything in his shed.  H finally bought it and donated the money for it.  “It’s like a war zone in East Devon” says SS.

5147 – H appointed a Commons fire warden.  What if I am not in my office?  “Since he hates his office and is never in it, I doubt his skills will ever be tested.

5239 – [Amber Rudd – currently one of SS’s best friends – although this changes – “misleads Parliament].  SS and HS put out a tweet: “Home office is and always has been a dysfunctional department filled with large numbers of left-leaning anti-Tory civil servants, who are prone to leaning … The Twittersphere goes bananas, particularly the civil service union representatives and Claire Wrong’s cronies, of course”.

[A Rudd resigns]

5269 – SS describes in detail and gynae problem that takes her to hospital.

5313 – “None of H’s deals are coming to fruition – he says he feels that he is ‘just a bed-blocker’ in the Commons”.

5434 – “He feels trapped by the institution that he now loathes and wants to get a Harley-Davidson, get stoned, have an affair and … horrify his constituents”.

5453 – [This entry really needs putting out in full as SS describes in horrifying detail how her husband tries to sabotage Claire Wright]  H has been trying to work out what would really piss off Miss Wrong.  I know, he says, let’s save Ottery St Mary Hospital.  Ottery St Mary is Wrong’s territory – we can’t do anything to Wright there, she has the whole place sewn up. [long rant] … I’m not saying she doesn’t have a point, but she has been telling them the hospital is going for nigh on 10 years.

H invites Matt “Hand on Cock” [her words] to visit, tips off ITV but not CW but ITV tells CW and she rallies her troops.

CW goes into full battle mode with her supporters … eventually Matt has to dive into his car.  Claire is outraged and rushes up to H “Did he give any guarantees Mr Swire” she says.  Sasha is incandescent with rage that she doesn’t call him Sir Hugo and thinks it all went swimmingly until they view the media coverage, very positive to CW so they complain to ITV.  “Are we ever going to be rid of this woman”.

5564 – H calls the East Devon Conservative Association to discuss Brexit.  About 8 turn up.  “Let everyone have their say” says Jill Elson, which always refers back to the fact that she was once, aeons ago, made redundant by Clark’s Shoes in Seaton and blames this on the ERM, John Major, Maastricht, the weather …”  Lovely Lynn, her sister, says “ordinary people at the pub etc.are complaining about the cuts.”  Jill Elson threatens to resign and hisses and fumes at Jacob Reees-Mogg … in the absence of Christine Channon (who has it in for Hugo at the moment) Jeff Tait (Mayor of Exmouth) reads his contribution out slowly.  They then competed about who was saying what about at the pub, no-one any the wiser.  H has come to the conclusion that either they are all mad or he is, and he thinks on balance it is probably him.

Gove and H meet and speculate what might have happened if H had married Jerry Hall [who he dated for a very short time and SS says it was just to make Mick Jagger mad] and they talk about having her over a barrel.

5707 – “H is becoming like Victor Meldrew”


5842 – H has been putting lens cleaner in his mouth and air freshener on his spectacles.

5874 – H speculates why his chickens are not laying.  A [real country person) says it is because only one cock should be with them and there are 3.  H cannot bring himself to wring the cocks’ necks so decides to shoot them.  He misses one and gets a chicken.  “He then goes all Rambo and uses so much lead [to kill the birds] they are inedible.

5913 – Another West Hill AGM [it seems these are popular as this branch produces most money for the coffers] in their “Fuhrerbunker” (the village hall)  Colonel Morrison features again … “Watching them  vote is excruciating – some unable to lift hands, others shaking one using one arm to raise the other – a portrait of our current membership”.

6141 – Phone call with our builder/shooter friend who tells H to do something about not being allowed to kill pests on his land.  “The green blob, led by Chris Packham have finally infiltrated DEFRA”.

6191 – 3 May election – “worst news – Indies have taken control of East Devon.  Claire Wrong is crowing from the rooftops because they are all “her people” – by that I mean of her left-wing persuasion.

6471 – Raab C Brexit (Dominic Raab) made Foreign Secretary and Deputy PM.  H really did help to put him on the map …Matt Hand on Cock still there, probably warming the PM’s loo seat).

6481 – “We all know Cummings is stark raving mad …”

6495 – Dinner at No 10, SS shouted at HS not to drink or use salt on account of his blood pressure which “for the last 2 days has been telling us he is headed for the exit …”

6502 – August 2019 – “Liam Fox is writing a book on pandemics …”.  H tells BJ that he is off at the next election.  BJ knocks back the plonk at an alarming rate.

6562 – Why did Boris and Carrie get a puppy when they have Hancock?

6633 – 12 September – H announces to Association Executive he’s off.  H says not a single person thanked him for his 20 year service.

6641 – C Wrong can’t believe her luck – SS thinks CW should have been nicer to Hugo about his leaving.  SS says:  “I feel elated that we don’t have anything to do with that cow again[Anyone notice a contradiction here with the entry above?]

6697 – “Everyone knows Boris is a sex addict …”

6735 – “Boris treads over the dead bodies of Extinction Rebellion protesters”.

6755 – H has 2 accidents with his new tractor.  “It doesn’t occur to him that it would be highly inconvenient for me to become a widow quite yet. Particularly as the life insurance I took out on him is about to run out.

6931 – Association have selected Simon Jupp.  Jupp – Raab C. Brexit’s media spad – is virtually being given the seat without much of a competition.

6938 – “Jupp comes from a much more humble background …”

6940 – in the past if you had brown sauce with your sausages, you voted Labour; if you holidayed in Tuscany you were New Labour or Conservative, but Brexit has smashed all those certainties.

6944 – H has conversation with John Humphries … H bursts into tears… because he said thank you and H is proud to have made [John and David’s wedding] happen.

6951 – H out doing last Remembrance Sunday [he is no longer an MP at this point just before the election] but it “gives him a chance to wear his KCMG”.

6976 – … we have decided not to go canvassing unless asked by the new candidate.

7022 – “H goes out canvassing in Budleigh Salterton for Jumping Jupp Flash, who tells H that he is having a torrid time with Claire Wrong’s followers.  All his posters are being ripped up and the abuse on his social media has been so bad he has had to shut his Facebook page down”/

… She goes around saying that she is fighting a clean campaign.  Maybe, but not all her supporters are.

7042 – “H flies back from Hong Kong.  He has become a non-executive for a large conglomerate that builds and places large storage facilities around Asia.

7050 – 10 December.  Remainer maniac menace Hugh Grant turns up in East Devon … surrounded by lefties from Claire Wright’s cult [another long rant from Sasha follows – saying he once nuzzled her and told her her perfume was wonderful].

7073 – OMG she’s going to get it … ? because H didn’t pass on his lucky rosette to Jupp (H searches for it).  He is convinced Jupp will lose.

13/12 – 80 Seat victory – amount of publicity CW received was unprecedented.

7132 “Jupp done it, babe”.

“A few days ago we got Twitter private messages from Rylance (Lib Dem) and Wilson (Labour) who admitted they’d rather we won due to her level of abuse and the trolling they had been getting from her supporters.

7139 – “I weirdly feel some sympathy for her … her vanity superseded a rational take on facts.

[Go now and cleanse yourselves with a hot shower] …..

Two massive cliff falls in Sidmouth ‘in just half an hour

Huge plumes of red dust have loomed over Sidmouth today [Thursday – Owl] following two cliff falls in the space of 30 minutes.

[See devonlive for photos and video]

Chloe Parkman 

Jenny Pleasants, who captured the natural phenomenon on camera, was stood along the seafront when she noticed the huge dust cloud coming from Jacobs Ladder.

One eye-witness said: ”[There has] been two in half an hour now.”

This appears to be the first significant cliff fall in just over a month after a local resident captured an enormous landslide in the town back in August.

Devon Live has reported on numerous cliff falls within the town over the last few months.

In May, the area saw five separate cliff falls of note, with three taking place within 24-hours.

A spokesperson for East Devon District Council (EDDC) said: ““Cliff falls are a natural and unpredictable occurrence along the East Devon coast, this is because the rock from which the cliffs are formed is soft and therefore prone to rock falls and landslides, which can happen at any time, although periods of heavy rainfall such as the wettest February on record and now a long dry period, can cause an increase rate of falls.

“The Sidmouth and East Beach Management Plan (BMP) scheme aims to reduce the risk of flooding to Sidmouth by maintaining the standard of defences along Sidmouth Beach, and to reduce the rate of erosion to the cliffs to the East of the town (and therefore the rate of exposure of the East side of Sidmouth to coastal conditions).”

Ian Barlow said: “For now the simple message is unchanged from previous years keep off east beach it is dangerous.

“We are lucky to have miles of beaches around with the best water quality available for people to enjoy the seaside safely even with social distancing!”


Robert Jenrick ignored civil servants to spend Towns Fund millions on Tory marginals

Another of “three homes” Jenrick’s achievements – Owl

Ministers ignored the advice of civil servants before ploughing millions into marginal constituencies, a cross-party group of MPs has been told.

George Grylls, Esther Webber 

Last September, weeks before the general election, Robert Jenrick, the communities secretary, announced that he would award £25 million each to deprived areas under a regeneration scheme called the Towns Fund.

Mr Jenrick and Jake Berry, a junior housing minister, chose 61 of the 101 towns. Analysis by The Times found that 60 of the areas they selected were in Conservative-held seats or Tory targets. The average majority in those towns was just 3,000. Mr Jenrick also chose his own seat of Newark — one of only two with a majority of more than 10,000 to receive funding.

The government initially refused to publish details of the selection criteria, but was overruled by the National Audit Office (NAO), leading to accusations by the public accounts committee that the government had used “flimsy, cherry-picked evidence” to choose the towns.

Appearing before the committee, Jeremy Pocklington, permanent secretary at the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), said that ministers were given an analysis of the relative deprivation of towns, but had chosen “to apply their own qualitative assessment”. He insisted that the government had adopted a “robust, evidence-based approach” in distributing the total sum of £3.6 billion.

Stephen Jones, director of the Cities and Local Growth Unit, told MPs that ministers were advised to consult with mayors during the selection process, but decided not to, saying that they “wanted to do that themselves”. A source close to the process rejected that assessment, saying that ministers had not refused to consult with mayors, but had simply never replied to the suggestion.

Meg Hillier, the Labour chairwoman of the public accounts committee, said the decision not to consult mayors was “very short-sighted”, adding that there were questions about the funding criteria that “still need answering”.

During the campaign, Mr Jenrick promoted the Towns Fund when visiting marginals including Broxtowe, Ipswich and Penistone & Stocksbridge.

The day before the vote, appearing alongside Darren Henry, now the MP for Broxtowe, in Stapleford — a town deemed low priority by civil servants — Mr Jenrick said that the government would “only” commit £25 million to the area if there was a “Conservative majority government” and Mr Henry was “elected to parliament tomorrow”.

A recent National Audit Office report found that ministers had selected all 40 towns deemed a “high priority” on a range of deprivation measures, but that they had also given money to 12 low-priority towns for which the rationale was “varied”.

An MHCLG spokesman said: “The report showed that the more affluent towns were ruled out, and the 40 most deprived towns were rightly favoured, with the remainder selected from a shortlist that considered a wide range of evidence.”


Devon and Cornwall the worst area for COVID-19 rule breaking in UK

More people in Devon and Cornwall flouted coronavirus lockdown regulations more than any other part of the UK, research has revealed.

George Thorpe

Freedom of Information requests submitted by The University of Law (ULaw) show that between March 23 and June 30, there were 956 cases of rules being broken across the two counties, equating to 21% of the 4,490 offences dealt with by the authorities.

It puts the area at the top of the list for UK by some distance with Derbyshire second on 570 and Leicestershire third with 479.

Northamptonshire and the West Midlands complete the top five with 436 and 376 offences respectively.

Speaking about the research’s findings, Jennifer Schmidt-Petersen, programme and student lead for policing programmes at ULaw, said: “In September, we’ve seen many people return to work and children return to school with a heightened appreciation for our emergency services.

“While public authorities were already under immense pressure during lockdown earlier in the year, it is shocking to see this research highlighting the huge number of those defying lockdown rules set by the Government, which were there to protect us.

“During this same timeframe, public authorities around the UK also dealt with a total of 68,747 general crimes, further putting pressure on their resources.

“Lockdown was hard for many people and the laws were put in place in order to slow the spread of the virus, as is shown with Leicestershire, not abiding by these lockdown rules may result in us being placed under tighter restrictions once again right across the UK.

“Getting caught in breach of the lockdown restrictions can put you at risk of ending up with a criminal record, which will have a serious long-term impact on your life.

“With new restrictions now coming into play, we’d encourage the public to take note and make sure they are fully informed when it comes to the powers of the police and their local authorities.”

From today (September 24), new COVID-19 restrictions introduced by the Government will require hospitality and entertainment establishment such as pubs, restaurants and bowling alleys to close at 10pm and not reopen until 5am.

Pubs, bars and restaurants must also offer table service only.

People are also being encouraged to work from home if possible while a maximum of 15 people will be allowed to attend wedding ceremonies and receptions from Monday.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has also unveiled a series of financial measures aimed at helping the country’s economy including VAT cuts and wage subsidies.


Lowlights of Sasha Swire’s Diaries – the first half

“there is even a website (East Devon Watch)  which perpetuates a new type of politics – one that encourages paranoia and hate.  We need to expel this extremism …!”

(The Toilet Seats are identified in this half)

Lowlights of Sasha Swire Diaries – first 50%

One of Owl’s correspondents kindly offered to undertake the onerous task of reading the “salacious” diaries.

Here is a summary of the lowlights of the first half of the book.

(Owl’s correspondent now deserves to lie down in a darkened room for a while).

Year 2010

Kindle version – numbers relate to Kindle location

92: Men + power = whores

110 Hugo liked being called Minister very much and kept asking S to say “Yes Minister

126 – loved having two bodyguards

232 – when he asks her to do something she doesn’t want to do, he says he should because she is his wife.  She retorts that the taxpayers pay her and he can see her contract if he wishes

257 – people ignore her because she is just an MPs wife – but she “carries revenge in her heart forever”

294 – her mother-in-law, the Dowager Marchioness Townsend informs her mother that she will be accompanied by her butler on a visit.

(Various) many bigwigs entertained at the rented home in Sidbury including PM, Gove, Osborne, etc where they often seem to get very drunk (472)

546 – He spends 3 days a week in Northern Ireland.

658 – the Queen ignores her, S thinks she is seen as “small and irrelevant.

745 – Hugo buys a Jeep Cherokee “for image reasons”.

783 – he and Cameron and Osborne stay up to watch Keira Knightley’s nipples in a film

816: Forestry Commission – biggest despoilers of land.

899 – finds out a “smelly Libdem” has stayed in their Government-owned and allocated flat in Northern Ireland.

1049 – the testicle-grabbing incident (grabbed by Sasha).

“324 – H’s new job in FO described as “running the world”.

1879 – West Hill Conservatives AGM – members complain it is like Hugo “has disappeared off the planet” as “not seen all year.  Average age: 70s, they by and large “hate foreigners, Europe, defence cuts, gay marriage, Liberals, BBC, Germans, Japanese and garlic”.  “H has fallen out of love with these people.

1969 – East Devon Scouts Day – the toilet seats are Anne and Graham Liverton because they are always “up and down at town (sic) council meetings”. [Owl flushes out a relevant local news story “Councillor quits over humiliation of wife”]

1991 – Graham Liverton “a symphony in green … think John Inman in “Are You Being Served”.

2129 – it’s 2014 and H wants to go – sounds out a headhunter about other jobs.

2460 – Claire Wright causing no end of trouble, quite a good operator, attacks Hugo personally, infuriates Sasha.

2500 – First pre-election hustings – H says hello to everyone except Ms Wright.

2522 – the notorious “benefits auction” where H makes joke about those on benefits not being able to buy his honey, a jar of which sells for £15,000.

2532 – Claire Wright exploits it “like a rat up a drainpipe”

2572 – Hustings in East Devon “quite tiresome” H tries not to be riled by Claire Wright.


2572 – Claire Wright’s supporters intimidating officers regarding postal votes.  [EDDC CEO and Returning Officer] Mark Williams “irritated”.  East Devon Alliance is “causing no end of trouble.


3317 – Claire Wrights supporters are “intolerant” – “there is even a website (East Devon Watch)  which perpetuates a new type of politics – one that encourages paranoia and hate.  We need to expel this extremism …!

3542 – (post-election) Hugo is miffed that he is to be sacked by May.  Defies the whip to “return to mid-Devon as he wants to have a good summer”.

3654 – Fundraiser at Woodbury Golf Club – “hideous development”, poor turnout (52).  All stand for the loyal toast except Jill Elson and her sister who try but fail to stand up.

3647 – They have ended their relationship with “Express and Echo” because it is too pro-Claire Wright.  But S says they no longer need them.

Darryl Nicholas (Mayor Exmouth) wants to be new MP.  S notes that Darryl’s “chaotic love life” has settled down.

S dances with the “alarmingly right-wing Colonel Peter Morrison from Westhill.

Graham Liverton draws the raffle – in a high camp manner like the dame he is going to play in pant.

But …”we do love each and every one of them”.

3985 – Bloody year .. the Claire Wright agenda and worse.


Hugo is at a dinner with Duchess Camilla, he drinks too much, she congratulates him on his election, he says “Do you mean my erection?” and she is not amused.

4208 – the terrorist attack outside Parliament – MP Tobias Ellwood goes out and gives first aid to a policeman, Hugo wishes it was him

4261 – Another election in the offing but “H doesn’t have all his ducks in a row [to stand down]” and “we have to take on Claire Wright again with all her cronies spreading their bile about us”.

4322 –  11 May Claire Wrong (stet) is up and running … even has a Campaign Manager, pitching it as a David and Goliath contest, which is hilarious since she has well over 500 helpers and we have one: Toby.  She’s energetic, she gets herself around social media nimbly… We still have the same bunch we had 20 years ago, now 89-99.  Hugo incandescent – one email sent out [by his “campaign”] says he will be on the campaign trail every day – except they sent it to Wright herself”.

4344 – Peter Faithfull – a shiny new nutter – also standing.

4382 – why don’t I canvass with Hugo “I can’t bear the aggression to H”.

Mother-in-law canvasses for H – “gets the usual 20% negative – we never see him around here”.

4415, Election night, Sidmouth.  SS doesn’t have her HRT patch on her leg.  Express and Echo tells her to “go away” when she tries to woo them away from Claire Wright.

Claire Wright also tells H to go away while she is doing an interview and he wants to interrupt her.  “Claire Wright’s henchmen start to circle around me.  Clean fight my arse …”


10,000 more deaths than usual occurred in UK homes since June

Some 10,000 more deaths than usual have occurred in peoples’ private homes since mid June, long after the peak in Covid deaths, prompting fears that people may still be avoiding health services and delaying sending their loved ones to care homes.

Pamela Duncan 

Some 10,000 more deaths than usual have occurred in peoples’ private homes since mid June, long after the peak in Covid deaths, prompting fears that people may still be avoiding health services and delaying sending their loved ones to care homes.

It brings to more than 30,000 the total number of excess deaths happening in people’s homes across the UK since the start of the pandemic.

Excess deaths are a count of those deaths which are over and above a “normal” year, based on the average number of deaths that occurred in the past five years.

In the past three months the number of excess deaths across all settings, has, in the main been lower than that of previous years. However, deaths in private homes buck the trend with an average of 824 excess deaths per week in people’s homes in the 13 weeks to mid-September.

Experts are citing resistance from the public to enter hospitals or home care settings and “deconditioning” caused by decreased physical activity among older people shielding at home, for example not walking around a supermarket or garden centre as they might normally.

During the pandemic in April and May, occupancy of care homes also fell significantly from 88% to 79% according to one internal industry survey seen by the Guardian with fewer people being placed into homes by their families. Weekly admission fell from 22 per 1,000 residents on 29 March 2020 to 8 per 1,000 by 31 May, according to the Knight Frank report. Given there are about 400,000 UK care bed occupants, that means a fall from 8,800 weekly admissions to 3,200 over that period – creating a substantial cohort of people who would have been in care, but stayed at home or with relatives instead.

“In the most recent weeks we can exclude the fact that much of the excess mortality is due to Covid because infection is much lower,” said David Leon, professor of epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. “So what we see is probably more to do with decisions that are being taken by families, by individuals, their GPs and also hospitals’ willingness to admit.”

A total of 30,260 excess deaths have occurred in private homes since the first coronavirus deaths were recorded in the UK in early March. The total number of deaths occurring in people’s homes across the UK since the first death in early March is now 43% higher than in previous years. However, less than one-in-10 of the excess home deaths are due to Covid (9%).

The latest available figures show that A&E attendances in NHS hospitals in England are below levels a year ago: there were 3.8m attendances at A&Es between June and August, down from 5m in a normal year or 29%.

NHS England said the drop was “likely to be a result of the Covid-19 response”, an indication that people are still avoiding hospitals due to the pandemic.

Delayed access to care during lockdown and people dying of non-Covid conditions which have worsened due to the person previously having the virus may also be contributing to the trend.

Leon stressed the precise reasons for the pandemic having resulted in many more deaths occurring at home was difficult to disentangle, but added it was clear that “compared to the previous five years, deaths are not occurring in hospitals”.

The ONS’s head of health index and projections, Greg Ceely, said that due to a “lower number of Covid-19 deaths in recent weeks, we would not expect delays to be caused by healthcare service capacity”.

Ceely also pointed to the possibility that deaths at home include some which occurred due to undiagnosed Covid-19 “or that the conditions people are dying of other than Covid-19 have potentially worsened due to the person previously having Covid-19”.

He added that there has been some evidence elsewhere that coronavirus can have longer-term effects on the cardiovascular system, with other countries observing an increase in non-Covid deaths from heart-related conditions in areas where C deaths from the virus have occurred.

“There is something quite profound about the fact that many more families are having to deal with people dying at home regardless of the reason,” said Leon.

More than 1,000 people died with Covid-19 every day in the UK for 22 consecutive days in April, peaking at 1,445 deaths on 8 April.

The analysis is based on figures from the Office for National Statistics, National Records of Scotland and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency.

Analysis of excess deaths covers a 27-week period for England and Wales and Scotland (weeks 11 to 37) and four months in Northern Ireland (1 March to 30 June).


Download coronavirus tracing app to protect your families, public told

The public will be told to download a coronavirus tracing app to protect their families today in one of the biggest government advertising campaigns.

Owl notes the “However…….” and “…It was once the centrepiece of contact tracing, then downgraded to the “cherry on the cake”. Now it seems to be barely more than a high-tech reminder to keep your distance.”

Is this another “Moonshot” over-hyped damp squib?

Chris Smyth, Whitehall Editor | Tom Knowles, Technology Correspondent 

Attempts will be made to convince people that their risk of infecting vulnerable relatives will be reduced if they use the delayed app, after appeals to civic duty were less effective.

However, one in three people told to isolate by the app will have been given a “false positive”, in which it will have wrongly thought that they had been within two metres of an infectious person for 15 minutes. This is because of its reliance on Bluetooth signals, which can be affected by nearby objects.

Officials said that this accuracy matched other countries’ apps. However, testing chiefs are downplaying hopes for the contact-tracing function, once heralded by Matt Hancock, the health secretary, as a way to get the nation back to normal. The officials now say that the app’s main benefit could be to prompt people to stick to social distancing and hygiene rules.

Mr Hancock will say today that the launch is “an important step forward”, and urge people to use the app “to protect themselves and their loved ones”.

Developers are aiming for up to a third of the population of England and Wales to download the app. Scotland released its own app this month and Northern Ireland launched one in July.

Wolfgang Emmerich, of Zühlke Engineering, which helped to build the app for England and Wales, said it was “arguably the best in the world”. Called NHS Covid-19, the app is available on Apple’s store for iPhone and Google’s Play store for Android phones. Users will be asked to confirm they are over 16 and to enter the first part of their postcode. There are plans for local lockdowns to be triggered and imposed using an automatic traffic light system, with alerts sent to phones using the app.


It was once the centrepiece of contact tracing, then downgraded to the “cherry on the cake”. Now it seems to be barely more than a high-tech reminder to keep your distance.

In playing up the personalised information provided by the contact-tracing app, testing chiefs are partly trying to tempt people to use it: who otherwise would download software whose principal feature was that it might order you to stay at home for two weeks?

But it also reflects diminished hopes for a product that became a victim of Silicon Valley hype and the techno-enthusiasm of Matt Hancock. Testing chiefs now admit it should not have been built up as a technology that would magically help to control the pandemic.

Britain looked to have been left behind while others surged ahead. Now officials insist the technology launching today is as accurate as anywhere in the world and a false positive rate of one in three may be better than the ready reckoning of human contact tracing.