Major Sulk enters his darkest hour as rank and file desert him

Out of desperation more than anything else, Boris Johnson has taken to calling Keir Starmer “Captain Hindsight”. Even when the Labour leader is making predictions about what will happen next. But in the Commons debate on the new coronavirus tiers, the prime minister revealed a new persona for himself: Major Sulk.

John Crace

You could tell Johnson wasn’t a happy bunny from the off, because he arrived looking a total mess. More often than not, Boris’s appearance is less art than artifice. He hopes that appearing shambolic will make people think he’s not too bothered. That he’s the Mister Good Time Guy on whom you can rely for a joke. Except no one is laughing any more. Least of all Boris. His bedraggled, slumped demeanour was not a sign that he wasn’t bothered. Rather it was the opposite. He couldn’t bear for his public to see just how much he did care. Not for the country, obviously. But for himself.

Up till now, the Great Narcissistic Sulk has never really given a toss about his rank-and-file backbenchers. He didn’t even know the names of three-quarters of them. But this was the day he came to realise the one-way love affair was over and the magic had worn off for a significant number of the Conservative parliamentary party. MPs willing to give him the benefit of the doubt because he had managed to win an 80-seat majority now realised they had bought a dud. A prime minister who at a time of crisis could be relied on to let you down.

Johnson’s opening speech was a lazy, badly argued ramble through the familiar arguments he had been making over the past week. He began by listing the positives of the new regime – hairdressers, gyms and round-the-clock shopping – insisting that the evidence for reopening them had been taken with granular thoroughness. Despite the fact that his economic impact assessments, released at the last minute the previous day, bore a closer resemblance to something knocked up on the back of cigarette packet.

He then went on to say that no one should take Christmas for granted. Only that was precisely what he was doing by granting a five-day Christmas amnesty that could turn into a New Year killing zone. He also promised an extra £1,000 to every pub that didn’t serve scotch eggs as a sop to the Tory malcontents. Or beer money, as Keir Starmer scathingly described it. The longer Boris spoke the emptier his words became. By the end he was running on fumes.

In reply, the Labour leader merely voiced what was on everyone’s mind. We’d all been here before on several occasions with Johnson, but every time he had let the country down. He had been too late to lock down initially; he had ignored Sage’s advice for a circuit breaker in September; he had introduced a tiering system that was soon proved to be hopelessly inadequate; Typhoid Dido’s track and trace had been a joke. He had promised the pandemic would be over by the summer. And then by Christmas.

Now we were clinging on for dear life waiting for the vaccines to save us. So why should anyone believe a word the prime minister said when it looked as though the new tiers were guided by what Boris could smuggle past enough of his backbenchers rather than by the science. A third national lockdown in January was all but an inevitability. And in the meantime, where was the financial help for the hospitality sector and the self-employed? As so often, Johnson had over-promised and under-delivered.

Even so, something had to be better than nothing. So Labour would be abstaining to make sure everyone’s main focus was on the number of Tory rebels. Yet again then, Starmer would be giving Johnson the benefit of the doubt and putting the government on notice. It’s been on notice for a while now. There would come a time when Keir would have to say enough was enough and vote against the government on its handling of the coronavirus. But now was not the right time.

The rest of the debate was dominated by unhappy Tories, either promising to rebel or to vote reluctantly for the government. Bernard Jenkin, after listing all the many faults in the new tiering system, sadly concluded that he would vote for Boris. Out of pity as much as anything else. Others were less forgiving, demanding more localised banding of tiers and proof that the hospitality industry was the root of all Covid evils. Steve Baker even went so far as to demand expert evidence. This from the MP who happily ignored both experts and evidence during numerous Brexit debates. Better a sinner who repenteth, I suppose.

It was Chris Grayling who delivered the real coup de grace by saying that he was “very concerned”. When you’ve lost the trust of Failing Grayling, who has cost the taxpayer more than £3bn in a ministerial career of unrivalled uselessness, then you’ve lost the soul of the Tory party.

With Labour abstaining, the vote itself was a formality, the motion passing with a majority of 213. But with 56 Tories voting against him and more abstaining, this was Boris’s darkest hour. One from which he may never recover. Many of us saw through Johnson long ago. An opportunist chancer only interested in self-glorification. Now it looks as if the mist has lifted from the eyes of many of his own benches. Enough for him never to take a vote again for granted. What goes around, comes around.

UK fishing industry caught between rock and hard place on trade talks

Boris Johnson has vowed to take back control of the UK’s “spectacular maritime wealth” but at 6am on Monday in Brixham, England’s biggest fishing port by value, there is nervousness that the prime minister’s efforts to defend the industry in post-Brexit EU trade talks could end in disaster.

[Extracts of this FT article are included in today’s Western Morning News]

George Parker in Brixham and Jim Brunsden in Brussels yesterday

Ian Perkes is sitting at his computer screen by the harbour buying sole in an online auction to sell to markets across Europe. He fears that if Mr Johnson allows EU trade talks to collapse in a dispute about fisheries, the industry will face crippling tariffs in its main market on January 1 when the UK’s Brexit transition period ends.

“If the tariff was only 5 per cent we would be killed,” said Mr Perkes, the founder of a £5m-a-year fish exporting company. In fact, if trade talks collapse, the EU will soon be levying tariffs of 20 per cent on key catches like scallops.

The scene on Brixham quayside tells a story of Britain’s emotional but ultimately detached relationship with its fishing industry, which contributes about 0.1 per cent to the UK’s GDP, if processing is included.

Workers hose down boats, gut fish and pack boxes as the sun rises over the south Devon port, on England’s south-west coast — but the fish landed here are not, generally, heading for the dining tables and restaurants of Britain.

According to Mr Perkes, 80 per cent of the scallops, squid, sole, ray, langoustines and other delicacies landed here will be loaded on to trucks and sent straight to Calais and on to markets in France, Italy, Spain and Germany. Similarly, the herring and mackerel caught by Scottish boats are not staples on a UK shopping list. 

The problem, rarely acknowledged by ministers, is that Britons do not much like the fish caught in the UK’s rich fishing waters. To the extent the country eats fish, it is mainly the “big five” of cod, haddock, tuna, salmon and prawns — most of which are imported.

So as trade talks with Brussels enter a decisive phase, Mr Johnson might secure more fish for UK boats but — without a trade deal — will they be able to sell them?

Ian Perkes: ‘If there’s no deal and there are tariffs, we are out of the game’ © Charlie Bibby/FT

Leaving aside processing, fishing and aquaculture, output slumped to just £75m in the third quarter, due mainly to the effects of Covid-19. By contrast, the independent Office for Budget Responsibility reported last week that a “no trade deal” Brexit would cost the economy 2 per cent of GDP next year.

But Mr Johnson recognises that fishing is not just about numbers. Even if Britons are not big fish eaters, the industry has a place in the nation’s psyche; some like to fall asleep listening to the BBC shipping forecast, evoking trawlers working distant storm-tossed waters.

A reminder of that visceral connection with the sea can be seen at the venerable “Man and Boy” statue on Brixham waterfront, now transformed into a shrine to Adam Harper, a young local who died when the scallop boat Joanna C overturned on November 21. Another crew member, Robert Morley, is still missing.

Mr Johnson’s fight for the restoration of fishing rights to UK fishermen after Britain leaves the EU’s common fisheries policy on January 1 is thus highly popular, especially in Scotland, which represents the biggest part of the UK industry.

EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has suggested that the EU fishing fleet should accept a 15-18 per cent cut in its share of rights in UK waters; David Frost, the UK’s negotiator, wants to seize 80 per cent of the €650m worth of fishing rights.

Jim Portus, chief executive of the South West Fish Producers’ Organisation, said the boat owners he represented believed Brexit was a chance to redress historic wrongs; he said that France, for example, had 84 per cent of the cod quota in the English Channel.

UK fishing

Mr Portus claims new boats — or second-hand boats — could be acquired in months to take up the extra quota and he insisted that EU consumers would still buy the fish even with high tariffs after the transition period expired. He added: “For the catching sector, no deal is better than a bad deal that sacrifices the industry.”

But Mr Portus’s optimism is not shared by Mitch Tonks, a restaurateur behind the Rockfish chain and the upmarket Seahorse in Dartmouth, who said British consumers would not take up the slack if tariffs were imposed and reduced exports to the EU.

“The sale of the fish is as important as the fishing,” he said, on a regular early-morning tour of Brixham fish market. “You could end up with fish rotting on the docks.”

Restaurant owner Mitch Tonks fears British consumers will not take up the slack if exports to EU fall © Charlie Bibby/FT

He said diners at his Rockfish outlets were gradually moving from traditional (imported) cod and chips to locally caught fish, but the transition would not make up for the loss of EU markets.

Mr Perkes, who set up his fish export business in 1976, is grappling with the paperwork required to sell into the EU single market after January 1 — paperwork that will be needed regardless of whether there is a trade deal.

“It’s a nightmare,” he said, noting that he will soon have to complete catch certificates and health certificates for each consignment to the EU, covering perhaps 30 different boats catching different species.

He has also been warned that each truck, carrying maybe £150,000 of fish supplied by a number of different exporting firms, could be turned back at Calais if all of the paperwork is not in order.

Sean Perkes, his brother, looks up from his trading screen and said that if there is no trade deal there will be trouble at the border. “If the French are losing their fishing quota, they will make life extremely difficult,” he added.

Ian Perkes, like most of the south-west fishing community, voted for Brexit as a means of taking back control of UK waters. “I wish I hadn’t,” he said. “I never looked at the implications of the paperwork. I was brainwashed.”

Tariffs on exports would — he fears — be a catastrophe for his business and the fishing boats that supply it. Barring a radical change in the dietary habits of Britain, he said the sector would be “stuffed”, adding: “If there’s no deal and there are tariffs, we are out of the game.”

Letter in response to this article:

An EU proposal on fishing to get us all off the hook / From Nicholas Cornwell, London NW3, UK

Breaking news: Pfizer/BioNTech Covid vaccine wins licence for use in the UK

The UK has become the first western country to license a vaccine against Covid, opening the way for mass immunisation with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to begin in those most at risk.

Sarah Boseley

The vaccine has been authorised for emergency use by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA), ahead of decisions by the US and Europe. The MHRA was given power to approve the vaccine by the government under special regulations before 1 January, when it will become fully responsible for medicines authorisation in the UK after Brexit.

The first doses of the vaccine will arrive in the coming days, said the company. The UK has bought 40m doses of the vaccine, which has been shown to have 95% efficacy in its final trials.

“Today’s emergency use authorisation in the UK marks a historic moment in the fight against Covid-19. This authorisation is a goal we have been working toward since we first declared that science will win, and we applaud the MHRA for their ability to conduct a careful assessment and take timely action to help protect the people of the UK,” said Albert Bourla, the chairman and chief executive officer of Pfizer.

“As we anticipate further authorisations and approvals, we are focused on moving with the same level of urgency to safely supply a high-quality vaccine around the world. With thousands of people becoming infected, every day matters in the collective race to end this devastating pandemic.”

Although the vaccine has to be kept at -70C, the companies say it can be stored for up to five days in a fridge, at 2-8°C. The first priority groups for vaccination are care home residents, who may not be able to come to a vaccination centre, together with the staff who look after them. At fridge temperatures, it may be possible for the vaccine to be brought to them. Next in line will be the over-80s and NHS staff.

The trial data showed the vaccine had equal efficacy among younger volunteers and those over 65 who are most at risk from Covid. Gender, race and ethnicity also made no difference.

Pfizer and BioNTech say their combined manufacturing network has the potential to supply globally up to 50m vaccine doses in 2020 and up to 1.3bn doses by the end of 2021.

The delivery of the UK’s 40m doses will start immediately. The health secretary, Matt Hancock, has said he expects 10m doses to arrive this year. Delivery will continue throughout 2020 and 2021 in stages “to ensure an equitable allocation of vaccines across the geographies with executed contracts,” say the companies.

The US, which has ordered 100m doses, and Europe, which has bought 200m, are expected to approve the vaccine within weeks.

The MHRA has moved with unprecedented speed to grant emergency use authorisation within just a week, having received the final data from the companies on 23 November. It has been carrying out a rolling approval process, scrutinising data from early trials as they came in.

“The emergency use authorisation in the UK will mark the first time citizens outside of the trials will have the opportunity to be immunised against Covid-19,” said Ugur Sahin, the CEO and co-founder of BioNTech.

“We believe that the rollout of the vaccination programme in the UK will reduce the number of people in the high-risk population being hospitalised. Our aim is to bring a safe and effective vaccine upon approval to the people who need it. The data submitted to regulatory agencies around the world are the result of a scientifically rigorous and highly ethical research and development programme.”

UK hit harder by Covid than any other developed economy except Argentina

The UK has been hit harder by the pandemic than any other developed economy except Argentina, a global watchdog says.

By Lucy White For The Daily Mail

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said the British economy will be 6.4 per cent smaller at the end of next year than it was in the final three months of 2019.

Of the 37 OECD members, only Argentina is expected to fare worse – its forecast is 7.9 per cent smaller. 

The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development said the British economy will still be 6.4 per cent smaller at the end of next year than it was in the final there months of 2019

China, the centre of the pandemic, is set to be 9.7 per cent larger, accounting for a third of global economic growth next year.

OECD chief economist Laurence Boone said: ‘With the prospect of vaccines and better virus management, the picture for the global economy is looking brighter, but the situation remains precarious, especially for the low-skilled and struggling small businesses.’

Manufacturing hope 

Manufacturing grew at its fastest rate in 35 months in November as suppliers stockpiled ahead of the Brexit transition ending.

The IHS Markit/CIPS Purchasing Managers’ Index hit 55.6 – anything above 50 is growth – up on October’s 53.7, as companies reopened. Machinery and equipment orders for warehouses were strong. 

Rob Dobson, at IHS Markit, said: ‘Whether the upturn can be sustained into the new year is highly uncertain once the temporary boosts from Brexit purchasing and stockbuilding wane.’

But sector optimism is at levels not seen since 2014. Around 61 per cent expect output to rise in the next year.    

The UK economy is expected to contract by 11.2 per cent this year, on the OECD’s estimates, slightly worse than the 10.1 per cent predicted in September.

Growth next year is now expected to come in at 4.2 per cent, instead of 7.6 per cent.

The Paris-based OECD said Britain had allowed the virus to spread too extensively during both the first and second wave before imposing draconian lockdowns. 

That led to a ‘particularly sudden’ shock.

Boone also noted that even though the UK had spent more on supporting its economy, this had not translated to better outcomes. 

She said this may mean that ‘not all measures have been used wisely’.

The OECD has urged against cutting Government spending, warning that recovery is on very uncertain ground.

Its forecasts will be a blow to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who hopes a strong recovery will raise tax income.

The OECD said vaccines might lead to a recovery that surpasses expectations.

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Full list of MPs who defied Boris Johnson to vote against new coronavirus restrictions

Neil Parish, Simon Jupp (and one or two other Devon Tories) “full of sound and fury,Signifying nothing?”. – Owl

By Benjamin Butterworth

Boris Johnson has suffered a major rebellion for his plan for to introduce an updated system of tiered restrictions in England after the nationwide lockdown ends.

The plan was approved by MPs, but he saw 55 of his own backbenchers reject the plans, his most significant rebellion so far as Prime Minister.

The i politics newsletter cut through the noise

Earlier in the day, he told the Commons to support his latest coronavirus plan, which will see 99 per cent of areas in England facing stringent restrictions on socialising, with many in tougher restrictions than when they went into the lockdown in November.

Defending the revamped rules, Tory frontbencher Lord Bethell told peers that Covid-19 was “not an inconsequential enemy” and claimed lives, including that of his own godfather.

He also argued the tier arrangements were not just a Government policy but “a national endeavour” to combat the virus threat.

Labour opted to abstain on the plan, but 16 MPs defied party leader Keir Starmer’s whip and voted to try and block the new measures.

Full list of Tory MPs who voted against:

Adam Afriyie (Windsor),

Imran Ahmad Khan (Wakefield),

Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale West),

Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire),

Paul Bristow (Peterborough),

Christopher Chope (Christchurch),

Greg Clark (Tunbridge Wells),

James Daly (Bury North),

Philip Davies (Shipley),

David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden),

Jonathan Djanogly (Huntingdon),

Jackie Doyle-Price (Thurrock),

Richard Drax (South Dorset),

Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green),

Mark Francois (Rayleigh and Wickford),

Marcus Fysh (Yeovil),

Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham),

Chris Green (Bolton West),

Damian Green (Ashford),

Kate Griffiths (Burton),

Mark Harper (Forest of Dean),

Philip Hollobone (Kettering),

David Jones (Clwyd West),

Julian Knight (Solihull),

Robert Largan (High Peak),

Pauline Latham (Mid Derbyshire),

Chris Loder (West Dorset),

Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham),

Craig Mackinlay (South Thanet),

Anthony Mangnall (Totnes),

Karl McCartney (Lincoln),

Stephen McPartland (Stevenage),

Esther McVey (Tatton),

Huw Merriman (Bexhill and Battle),

Robbie Moore (Keighley),

Anne Marie Morris (Newton Abbot),

Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst),

Mark Pawsey (Rugby),

John Redwood (Wokingham),

Mary Robinson (Cheadle),

Andrew Rosindell (Romford),

Henry Smith (Crawley),

Ben Spencer (Runnymede and Weybridge),

Desmond Swayne (New Forest West),

Craig Tracey (North Warwickshire),

Tom Tugendhat (Tonbridge and Malling),

Matt Vickers (Stockton South),

Christian Wakeford (Bury South),

Charles Walker (Broxbourne),

Jamie Wallis (Bridgend),

David Warburton (Somerton and Frome),

William Wragg (Hazel Grove),

Jeremy Wright (Kenilworth and Southam)

Full list of Labour MPs who voted against:

Apsana Begum (Poplar and Limehouse),

Richard Burgon (Leeds East),

Mary Kelly Foy (City of Durham),

Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish),

Mike Hill (Hartlepool),

Kevan Jones (North Durham),

Emma Lewell-Buck (South Shields),

Ian Mearns (Gateshead),

Grahame Morris (Easington),

Kate Osborne (Jarrow),

Bell Ribeiro-Addy (Streatham),

John Spellar (Warley),

Graham Stringer (Blackley and Broughton),

Zarah Sultana (Coventry South),

Derek Twigg (Halton)

Independent MP Jeremy Corbyn also voted against the measures,  Julian Lewis (New Forest East), a former Tory sitting as an independent.

All eight DUP MPs opposed the proposals, too.

US news: The ‘Kraken’ Lawsuit Was Released And It’s Way Dumber Than You Realize – The Bulwark


[See also WASHINGTON (AP) — Disputing President Donald Trump’s persistent, baseless claims, Attorney General William Barr declared Tuesday the U.S. Justice Department has uncovered no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could change the outcome of the 2020 election.]

Mike Dunford

Every time you think you have a grasp of how preposterous the Trump team’s election lawsuits are, another one comes out, dumber and more conspiracy-filled than the last.

The Pennsylvania monstrosity that was submitted by Rudy Giuliani, Jenna Ellis, and the Four Seasons Total Litigation supporting cast was terrible. It made, according to a federal appeals court ruling, “vague and conclusory” allegations about alleged misconduct, tried to get the court to do things that would violate the U.S. Constitution, and had, in the court’s words, “no merit.” Their case was such complete nonsense that two courts and four judges decided it was too dumb to fix.

You want that to be the bottom. You want the lawsuit that the president’s legal team lost, twice, for literally every reason it’s possible to lose the case to be the most preposterous election lawsuit we’re going to see this year. You go to bed Wednesday night hoping that it was.

And you wake up disappointed Thursday morning because while you slept Sidney Powell released the #Kraken.

Powell had been threatening to release the Kraken for the last week, which she spent “practicing law on her own” after being unpersoned by the Trump legal team following a press conference in which she spouted conspiracy theories so insane that even Giuliani’s hair dye was trying to get out of the room. It wasn’t clear what the Kraken was until it was released and we learned that it had taken the form of matching his-and-hers lawsuits in Georgia and Michigan. Lawsuits that have redefined rock bottom.

You don’t need to read far to see how truly awful these lawsuits are. Start with the simplest and most eye-catchingly obvious: Complaints in federal lawsuits have set formatting—at the top of the first page are the words “IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE ____ DISTRICT OF ____.” It’s a ritual formula, it’s hard to mess up, and every lawyer I know who practices in federal courts uses a fill-in-the-blanks template. Every lawyer except Sidney Powell, I guess—because between the two filings she managed to spell the word “district” four different ways, batting .250 on accuracy.

And things only got worse from there. Much worse.

The two lawsuits, which are very similar to each other, reiterate more or less the same meritless claims that just got Rudy et al. unceremoniously tossed out of the Third Circuit.  They seem to have been drafted by a spacebar-phobic first-year coming out the back end of a meth binge.

Consider this section of the legal background:

Or this compelling excerpt from the section titled “JURISDICTION ANDVENUE”:

ThejurisdictionoftheCourttograntdeclaratoryreliefisconferredby28U.S.C. §§ 2201 and 2202 and by Rule 57, Fed. R. Civ. P.

That kind of spacing problem recurs throughout. The document is practically unreadable.

But as specious the legal arguments are and as incomprehensible as the copy is, the craziest thing about the case is the substance. This complaint reads like it was drafted at the afterparty for a three-day QAnon convention. And it might have been, given that one of Powell’s more absurd “witnesses” is Ronald Watkins who, alongside his father, runs the imageboard where “Q” drops his messages. Hmmmm. The reason Watkins is part of this case is unclear. Powell is claiming him as an expert in Dominion’s voting software, but you would hope that she could find someone better—like I don’t know, someone who has worked with it maybe?

The basis of Watkins’s alleged expertise is the fact that he claims to have read the manual. This may come as a surprise but reading a software manual does not qualify you to testify as an expert witness in a federal courtroom.

If you can believe this, Watkins isn’t even the strangest witness. The award would go to Mystery Man Lord Tensai. Powell redacted this witness’s name from all the filings, including those sent to the defendants. The Mystery Witness proclaims that he/she/it wants  to “let the world know the truth about the corruption, manipulation, and lies being committed by a conspiracy of people and companies” that “began more than a decade ago in Venezuela and has spread to countries all over the world.” Our Mystery Witness, whom the declaration assures us is “an adult of sound mine” [sic . . . lmao] claims to have gathered the information about this conspiracy while serving on long-dead Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez’s security detail. We don’t know this person’s name, but they tell us that if we doubt the veracity of their claims, we only have to—well, see for yourself.

Ah so the Mystery Witness also has a Mystery Corroborator!

For those who are not versed in the particulars of high-stakes lawsuits of this nature, let me affirm that, no, you cannot hide the identity of your star witness from the people you’re suing. And no, you cannot hide the identity of the people who will vouch for the veracity of your star witness.

This remains true no matter how many poorly explained diagrams with circles and lines and arrows your unnamed experts use in their declarations.

This is especially the case when the claim you are making is as bonkers (that’s a term of art) an expert declaration as this: “Iranian APT teams were seen using ACUTENIX, a website scanning software, to find vulnerabilities within Election company websites, confirmed to be used by the Iranian APT teams buy [sic . . . I think?] seized cloud storage that I had personally captured and reported to higher authorities.”

This is all batshit crazy. It is as stupid an elections lawsuit as I’ve ever seen. And there’s no guarantee that it’s the worst case we’re going to see, because even though their legal arguments are being dismissed with extreme prejudice, when it comes to the political/propaganda aims of the litigants—this stuff works. Once the true believers are on board, it’s hard to get them off.

The complaints that Sidney Powell filed in these two cases are full of so many misspellings and missing spaces that they’d drive a proofreader to drink. The faithful think that’s nine-dimensional chess, intended to distract the media from the quality of the allegations.

If the faithful aren’t going to be scared away by a complaint that was drafted by someone who clearly thinks that the spacebar is an optional extra, they’re not going to be scared away when the case is inevitably dismissed by an “activist judge.”

The Kraken is the stupidest election fraud lawsuit in history today. But who knows what next week will bring.

Two more Covid-related deaths recorded in both East Devon and Exeter

A further two coronavirus-related deaths have been recorded in both East Devon and Exeter in the latest weekly statistics.

East Devon Reporter 

Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures published on Tuesday (December 1) showed the seven-day toll of 34 across Devon and Cornwall is the region’s highest since May.

And every district across both counties has registered a fatality due to Covid-19 for the first time since the middle of April.

They relate to deaths which occurred in the week of November 14 – 20 and were registered up to November 28.

The two deaths recorded in East Devon and both of those in Exeter happened in hospital.

There were eight fatalities in Plymouth; three in each of Teignbridge, North Devon and Torridge; two in each of the South Hams and West Devon; and one in both Torbay and Mid Devon.

Seven deaths due to coronavirus were recorded in Cornwall.

The previous seven-day period saw 24 Covid-related deaths – two of them in East Devon and one in Exeter – recorded across Devon and Cornwall.

In total, 56 Covid-19 deaths have now been registered in East Devon; 23 of them in hospital, 29 in care homes and four at home.

The total for Exeter is 42; 19 of them in hospital, 21 in care homes and two at home.

Some 696 coronavirus-related deaths have been registered across Devon and Cornwall; 393 in hospitals, 248 in care homes, 53 at home, one in a hospice and one ‘elsewhere’.

Of these, 118 have been in Plymouth, 88 in Torbay, 44 in Teignbridge, 30 in North Devon, 27 in Torridge, 23 in Mid Devon, 22 in West Devon, and 19 in the South Hams

A total of 227 deaths due to the virus have been registered in Cornwall.

The ONS figures for Devon and Cornwall include people who have died at home, in hospital, in care homes, hospices, ‘other’ communal places, or ‘elsewhere’.

They are broken down by the local authority area in which the deaths were registered.

Government figures show at total of 1,551 Covid-19 cases have been confirmed in East Devon to date. The number for Exeter is 2,648.

Skypark in Exeter secures lease with Stovax and Gazco, the UK’s largest stove and fireplace manufacturer

St. Modwen and Devon County Council have secured a 15-year lease with Stovax Heating Group Ltd – trading as Stovax & Gazco – to occupy a 196,037 sq ft manufacturing unit at the Skypark development in Exeter. Construction on the new Stovax & Gazco facility is intended for the second half of next year.

Does this fit with the green agenda? – Owl 

Skypark – a partnership between St. Modwen and Devon County Council – is the cornerstone development of the Exeter and East Devon Growth Point initiative.

Stovax & Gazco is a leading manufacturer in the global stove and fireplace industry and delivers its high-quality gas, electric, woodburning and solid fuel product portfolio to more than 25 countries across the world.

The manufacturer has been in the industry for nearly 40 years and employs approximately 300 staff across Exeter.

St. Modwen has already completed earlier phases at Skypark, including a district heating centre, an ambulance response facility, a distribution facility for DPD, and a range of office units.

The scheme’s strategic location provides quick access to the M5 and neighbours Exeter International Airport. This environmentally sustainable business park is a 20-year project and has the potential to provide up to 6,5o0 jobs in the long-term.

James Irwin-Singer, Development Manager at St. Modwen Industrial & Logistics, said: “Stovax & Gazco are a major regional occupier in the manufacturing sector with significant growth plans and we are delighted to be welcoming them to Skypark. Our proposed building aims to provide capacity for the firm’s continued growth through a new facility with far greater operational efficiencies.

“The high-quality manufacturing unit will serve as a more enjoyable and environmentally sustainable place to work and we are planning to get construction underway in the second half of 2021 on what should be an exciting project for all involved. The development will also significantly benefit the local community, providing more jobs, more skills, and more training to the Exeter area.”

Councillor Rufus Gilbert, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Economy and Skills, added: “Stovax & Gazco has become a world leader in its field from its Exeter HQ, so it is great to have such a successful local business commit its future to the area. We believe Skypark is the perfect location to help companies to grow and the arrival of Stovax & Gazco demonstrates their confidence in that as well, which is a glowing endorsement.”

Alistair Compton, Managing Director at Stovax & Gazco, added: “Our business has ambitious plans to continue its strong history of growth and to build upon our position as a trusted brand in the premium heating and decorative fireplace market.

“Our new base at Skypark is a fantastic opportunity to achieve this, and crucially allow us to keep our operation in the heart of Exeter and to preserve employment for our longstanding, talented team of staff, whose hard work, expertise and innovative thinking are at the very core of the Stovax & Gazco brand ethos.

“We’re delighted to work in partnership with St. Modwen in meeting our high requirements for a premium, state of the art, sustainable space to facilitate the expansion of our manufacturing and business operations under one roof.”

For more information visit the Skypark website.

Posted in: Business and Economy | DCC Homepage

More than 30 people fined thousands for Covid lockdown breaches

More than 30 people have been fined over £13,000 for breaching Covid rules during the spring lockdown in the Westcountry.

Paul Greaves

Over two dozen men aged between 67 and their early 20s were convicted by Cornwall magistrates for not being at their home addresses during the restrictions.

Half a dozen women aged from 18 were also fined for the same thing.

The defendants breached the Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020, a piece of legislation put into effect at 1pm on March 26 this year.

People were not allowed to leave their homes except for one form of exercise per day, shopping for basic necessities, travelling to work when necessary, or caring for a vulnerable person.

The people fined by Cornwall Magistrates all had either slept over at another address – some hundreds of miles away from their home – or gathered with more than two other people, which was also forbidden.

The defendants came from London, Coventry, Hertfordshire, as well as locations in Devon and Cornwall, as they were caught at resorts like Polzeath, Rock, Daymer Bay in Cornwall and Sidmouth, Devon.

The magistrates fined them a total of £13,050 with costs with the maximum personal fines of £440 plus costs.

It comes after a number of other court cases linked to Covid rules being broken.

In October it was reported how a Devon lockdown breaker drove 140 miles to pick up a friend in Wales then spat in the face of a concerned citizen who asked her what she was doing.

Rochelle Miah took her Fiat Punto from Paignton to Llantrisant in South Wales on April 4 but abandoned it on a stranger’s front lawn after the clutch broke.

She became aggressive after bemused householder Owen Adams went out to investigate and ended up attacking him and an off-duty police officer who went to his aid.

She spat full into Mr Adams’s face and bit the female officer’s arm, leaving a red mark, before she was detained. She said she panicked because she knew she should not have been so far from home during the most extreme phase of the first lockdown.

In October magistrates in Exeter fined a Topsham man £120 for being outside the place where he was living during the health emergency in April. The offence was in breach in Coronavirus restrictions. Another man appeared at the same court June accused of driving from his native Wolverhampton to visit his girlfriend in Barnstaple.