Marazion: The tiny town dreaming big of becoming the UK’s smallest city

Exmouth, Sidmouth, Honiton and Ottery St. Mary – have you missed a trick? – Owl

Casey Magloire, news reporter

The small Cornish town of Marazion has bid to be officially recognised as a city for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations, which would make it the tiniest one in the country.

With a population of around 1,400, Marazion faces tough competition from the likes of Reading, Bournemouth and Middlesborough, which are all vying to become the UK’s next city.

The competition has been arranged by the government to celebrate Her Majesty‘s 70 years on the throne.

‘Size isn’t important’

Local councillor Richard Stokoe said that the town is home to big supporters of the Queen and planned celebrations alongside the city bid.

If the bid is successful next year, the town would be the smallest city and – at just 15 miles from Land’s End – it would also become the most southern.

“Size isn’t important,” said Cllr Stokoe. “Marazion deserves to be celebrated and given city Despite its size, the historic town – about 26 miles west of Cornwall’s only city, Truro – is packed full of heritage and overlooks the picturesque St Michael’s Mount.

Cllr Stokoe admitted that the bid has received mixed reception from the close-knit residents and split the council, but supporters are focused on the economic boost that would come with becoming a city.

Why bid to become a city?

Research produced by the University of Reading showed that a city bid alone can boost an economy and stimulate inward investment.

“It costs nothing,” Cllr Stokoe said. “Achieving city status would further raise the profile of Marazion, stimulate local businesses and prosper the community.

“It’s a magical, magical, magical place. This could put us on the map.”

Paul Elliott, the chair of Marazion’s Chamber of Commerce, added: “More than anything, the people of Marazion are excited to share their beautiful town with the world and attract more visitors.”

More Downing Street gatherings now under the spotlight – Owl losing count

As an investigation is launched into a party held in No 10, other alleged gatherings are under the spotlight amid allegations that some in Downing Street may have contravened Covid rules.

Aubrey Allegretti 

An inquiry announced by the prime minister, however, is focused on facts surrounding what happened on 18 December 2020.

18 December 2020 – Downing Street Christmas party

A party was held in No 10 when London was in tier 3 restrictions, which banned social events, according to multiple sources after the Daily Mirror first broke the story last week. Several dozen people – a mix of civil service and political staff – reportedly attended and were told to bring “secret Santa” presents, with cheese and wine laid on.

While Boris Johnson’s spokesperson insisted no rules had been broken and then denied any party took place, a video filmed four days after the event was published by ITV.

The leaked footage showed Allegra Stratton, the prime minister’s then aide, rehearsing for televised press conferences and laughing and joking with aides about a party on 18 December. Stratton all but confirmed the event took place by laughing it off as a “business meeting” but added: “It was not socially distanced.” Cabinet secretary Simon Case will investigate what rules may have been broken.

10 December – Gavin Williamson’s staff party

Earlier in the month, when London was in tier 2, which only allowed socialising in groups of six outside, then-education secretary Gavin Williamson threw a party in his Whitehall department.

The most senior civil servant in the department, Susan Acland-Hood, attended and admitted that there was a “work-related” gathering hosted in the canteen. She did not dispute people were drinking wine, and blamed Williamson for instigating the event.

She recalled he wanted to “say a few words” to thank staff after a difficult year. Acland-Hood confirmed Case would also consider the Department for Education event as part of his investigation into Westminster parties.

Unspecified date in December – a festive No 10 quiz

On an unspecified date also in December, a Christmas quiz was organised for No 10 staff, the BBC said, with invites emailed to everyone who worked in the building.

Some guests were said to have dialled in by Zoom but others apparently attended in-person and sat in groups of six, some wearing Christmas jumpers. Downing Street was contacted for comment.

27 November – Downing Street leaving do

While England was still in the grip of its second national lockdown, a leaving do was organised in No 10 – said to have been for Cleo Watson, a former aide to Johnson’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings.

A source told the Guardian that Johnson personally attended and gave a speech, remarking on how full with people the room was, before leaving to continue working.

At the time, socialising in groups from different households was completely banned and people were ordered to work from home, though key workers could continue going into the office.

13 November – Boris and Carrie Johnson flat party

The latest alleged party to emerge dates to around midway through England’s second lockdown and relates to the Downing Street flat where Johnson and his wife live.

The accusation came from Cummings and the event was said to have taken place on the same evening he left Downing Street for good. After Case’s review into the 18 December party was announced, Cummings urged the cabinet secretary to also investigate a party in the Johnsons’ flat.

He alleged there had been “other flat parties” and suggested the pair’s “bubble” policy should be investigated. Asked this week if a party went ahead in his flat on 13 November, Johnson said “no”.

The prime minister’s “bubble” has come under scrutiny before, after his spokesperson did not deny that a close friend of Carrie Johnson – Nimco Ali – stayed with them last Christmas. One of the explanations offered was that Ali was considered part of the Johnsons’ childcare support bubble.

No 10 Christmas party: Dominic Cummings claims there was a third party

Dominic Cummings has claimed that there was yet another party in Downing Street during lockdown last year.

Jen Mills 

It comes after the prime minister was forced to defend himself in the Commons this afternoon over allegations there was a secret party for staff on December 18, when London was under Tier three restrictions.

Video of his then press secretary appearing to laugh about it with colleagues sparked anger last night, with Boris saying he is ‘furious’ after seeing the footage and will call for an investigation.

As PMQs went on, former top government aide Mr Cummings decided to add some more fuel to the fire by tweeting: ‘Will the CABSEC also be asked to investigate the *flat* party on Fri 13 Nov, the other flat parties, & the flat’s ‘bubble’ policy…?’

November 13 is the same day that Mr Cummings left government, following reports of bitter in-fighting.

After he made the allegations, Labour MP Catherine West asked during PMQs if he could confirm whether there was a part in Downing Street that day.

He replied ‘no’ and added: ‘I’m sure that whatever happened the guidance was followed and the rules were followed at all times.’

Mr Johnson insisted he had been repeatedly assured ‘there was no party and that no Covid rules were broken’.

It comes after The Department for Education admitted it held a social gathering of staff on December 10 last year in contravention to coronavirus social distancing rules as London was under Tier two restrictions at the time.

A spokeswoman for the department said: ‘‘Drinks and snacks were brought by those attending and no outside guests or supporting staff were invited or present.

‘While this was work-related, looking back we accept it would have been better not to have gathered in this way at that particular time.’

During the Commons session today, Labour’s Dr Rosena Allin-Khan questioned how Boris Johnson slept at night as she recalled weeping behind her mask while working in intensive care.

The MP for Tooting said the country is ‘angry’ before adding: ‘Last Christmas while we were in lockdown, millions of people were unable to be with their families, thousands of people waved through their care home windows at loved ones wishing them a merry Christmas from the side of the road, people died without that last touch from their daughters, their sons, their wives.

‘Working in intensive care I wept behind my mask as three children talking to their dying mother on an iPad begged her to wake up. Countless children now growing up without parents while parties were held at No 10.

‘This is disgraceful, this is an insult to everyone who followed the rules, it is an insult to everyone who wasn’t allowed to say their final goodbye. This happened on the Prime Minister’s watch so my question is very simple: How does the Prime Minister sleep at night?’

Mr Johnson thanked Dr Rosena for her service, adding: ‘If you ask me how I sleep at night, the answer is of course I take full responsibility and personal responsibility for everything that this Government has done, but I must say the way forward for this country now is to focus on the position we are in and above all to get our vaccinations as we fast as we possibly can.’

The Metropolitan Police said it is reviewing footage of Downing Street staff discussing the Christmas party at a press conference rehearsal.

It comes as thousands of people have signed a petition calling on the IOPC, the police watchdog, to investigate the Metropolitan Police’s response to the alleged incident.

No 10 Christmas party will not be investigated by Met Police

Is the search now on for the mole who leaked the video, and which will attract more effort: mole or the party? – Owl 

The Metropolitan Police has said it will not be opening an investigation into allegations Downing Street staff broke coronavirus rules with a Christmas party last year, as Boris Johnson apologised and a senior aide was forced to quit over the scandal.

Sam Corbishley

Scotland Yard said officers will not ‘commence an investigation at this time’ in line with its ‘policy not to investigate retrospective breaches’ of coronavirus rules despite reviewing the allegations and leaked footage showing senior No 10 staff joking about a party.

But the force added that it was open to considering any further evidence unearthed in an internal investigation the Prime Minister was forced to task Cabinet Secretary Simon Case with undertaking as he claimed to be ‘furious’ about the video.

Amid mounting public anger Allegra Stratton, who was the Prime Minister’s spokeswoman, resigned as a Government adviser after video emerged of her and other aides ‘seeming to make light of lockdown measures’ just days after the gathering in No 10.

A Met statement acknowledged it had received ‘a significant amount of correspondence’ relating to the alleged breaches in the run up to Christmas last year but said they do not ‘provide evidence of a breach’ of Covid rules.

It added: ‘Based on the absence of evidence and in line with our policy not to investigate retrospective breaches of such regulations, the Met will not commence an investigation at this time.

‘The Met has had discussions with the Cabinet Office in relation to the investigation by the Cabinet Secretary. If any evidence is found as a result of that investigation, it will be passed to the Met for further consideration.’

Mr Johnson has repeatedly insisted that rules were followed in Downing Street since the claims first emerged about the December 18 party.

However, at Prime Minister’s Questions, he told the Commons he based that position on assurances from junior staff as he offered an apology.

He asked Mr Case ‘to establish all the facts and to report back as soon as possible – and it goes without saying that if those rules were broken then there will be disciplinary action for all those involved’.

His decision to launch an investigation followed a week of official denials that the party took place when London was under Tier 3 restrictions – despite reports staff drank alcohol and exchanged Secret Santa gifts.

Downing Street’s official line has now shifted with the announcement of the Case inquiry, with the Prime Minister’s press secretary declining to repeat the statement that ‘there was no party’.

She said ‘it wouldn’t be right to comment further’ while Mr Case was investigating.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the Prime Minister’s apology ‘raises more questions than answers’ as he had been ‘caught red-handed’.

He asked Mr Johnson: ‘Millions of people now think the Prime Minister was taking them for fools, that they were lied to. They are right aren’t they?’

In response to questioning from Sir Keir, the Prime Minister agreed that any evidence uncovered by the Cabinet Secretary about parties in Downing Street would be handed over to police.

Boris Johnson’s full apology: sorry, not sorry, nothing to do with me 

Boris Johnson came to the House of Commons today [Wednesday] armed with nothing better than a non-apology apology, a promise to get to the bottom of any mistakes that were made, and an insistence that if any of these events actually happened a year ago they were nothing to do with him. 

Keir Starmer was almost regretful, as if he had hoped that the prime minister would put up more of a fight: “That’s so desperate, and even his own side can see it.”

The prime minister tried to take the question of the Downing Street Christmas party head on, before it was asked, and to absorb public anger by saying he shared it. He sounded like a disappointed parent, saying he was “furious” when he saw the video of his staff “seeming to make light of lockdown rules”.

But the effect was immediately spoiled by an insincere apology for the “offence” that the video “has caused”, and “for the impression that it gives”. In plain English, he was saddened, as a mere observer, that offence had been caused – as fine an example as one will find in British politics of what Colin Powell, the US secretary of state, once called the “third person passive once removed”. And after all, he was sorry only for the “impression” the video gave, he said, implying that the impression was not accurate.

Keir Starmer questions Boris Johnson’s moral authority to lead

He had no idea what an accurate impression would be, of course, so he said he had asked Simon Case, the cabinet secretary, to establish the facts, apparently having failed to establish them himself since the Christmas party was first reported by the Daily Mirror more than a week ago. “I have been assured repeatedly that there was no party and that no Covid rules were broken,” he said. In other words, I was only following orders given to me by my subordinates.

Finally he said that if anything bad had happened, despite his knowing nothing about it – that is, “if”, and there is probably a Latin phrase for the exculpatory conditional – heads would roll. But not his, obviously.

Then he put his head down and tried to get through the rest of the session of Prime Minister’s Questions by alternately sounding sad and defiant. He sounded mournful and sympathetic when Starmer raised the case of Trisha Greenhalgh, the professor of primary care, whose mother died alone last Christmas because the family kept to the rules and didn’t visit.

But in the next sentence he said it was a “great mistake” of Starmer’s to “play politics” with the issue. “I don’t think the public do want to see confidence in these measures undermined,” he said. Starmer seemed so surprised at being accused of what he was accusing Johnson of that he almost lost his thread.

Boris Johnson agrees to hand over information about No 10 Christmas parties to police

Starmer made his case, but failed to connect, because the prime minister and his officials had already so comprehensively made the case against themselves. The Labour leader managed to mention that he had been head of the Crown Prosecution Service, and so could say that Dominic Raab had been talking “total nonsense” when he said that the police don’t normally investigate crimes from a year ago. But as everyone, including the deputy prime minister, already knows it is nonsense, this seemed a feeble condemnation.

Starmer secured a commitment from the prime minister to hand over everything to the Metropolitan Police if they asked for it, but otherwise was best advised to ask bland questions and to allow Johnson to condemn himself.

To keep up to speed with all the latest opinions and comment sign up to our free weekly Voices newsletter by clicking here

Johnson obliged, accusing Starmer again of muddying the waters and playing politics and switching in his answer to Starmer’s sixth and last question to saying that “the party opposite wants to decriminalise drugs”. He then repeated the line about muddying waters and playing politics in answer to Ian Blackford of the Scottish National Party, who he said was playing politics with “events or non-events from a year ago”.

It was an unedifying performance by a prime minister in trouble, whose staff had patently failed to supply him with the lines he needed – which rather suggests that there is no defence available. He got through it, partly because expectations are always too high of the leader of the opposition in such a situation – Starmer’s own MPs must have imagined that they really had trapped the prime minister this time, only for him to fail to put up his hands and resign on the spot.

And so Johnson scuttled out of the chamber as fast as he could the moment the session was over, with the question asked in the video of her mock press conference by Allegra Stratton, his former spokesperson, hanging over him. “What’s the answer?”

Daughter whose dad died in lockdown says PM should resign

A Devon woman who is suing the government over its handling of the pandemic has accused the prime minister of double standards over the “disgusting” Downing Street Christmas party and says he should now resign.

Edward Oldfield 

Dr Cathy Gardner brought the case following the death of her father Michael Gibson, at the age 88 in a care home in April 2020, with probable Covid.

Her comments echoed widespread condemnation after details emerged of the staff party which apparently took place against lockdown rules in December 2020 when indoor social gatherings were banned.

Dr Gardner, from Sidmouth, said the apparent holding of the party showed a similar disregard for the rules as when the prime minister’s adviser Dominic Cummings was accused of breaching the lockdown.

She described holding the party as “disgusting” at a time when hundreds of people were dying daily from Covid. She said it showed a disregard for the rules in a culture at No. 10 which the prime minister was responsible for.

Boris Johnson told MPs on Wednesday he has ordered an investigation and said he was “furious” about footage apparently showing aides joking about the party.

The prime minister apologised “unreservedly” for the offence caused by the video obtained by ITN of his then-spokeswoman Allegra Stratton at a mock press conference.

But he insisted he had been repeatedly assured “there was no party and that no Covid rules were broken”.

Dr Gardner said: “To me, it just confirms the view of their appalling handling of the pandemic, and their contempt for the public – failing to tell the truth, failing to admit what happened.

“It is not the first time, it happened with the Barnard Castle fiasco, when Boris Johnson defended Dominic Cummings, which blew massive holes through public confidence and public support and adherence to the rules.

“This is the same thing. A few months later apparently they were holding several parties, and the prime minister is responsible for what happens at No. 10.

“It is just disgusting, at a time when so many people were still dying day after day.

“They have never properly considered the impact on the public. It just seems that Johnson just treats it all as a bit of a game, and if he can duck and dive, he will.”

Dr Gardner said there was apparently a culture at Downing Street which meant people felt able to ignore the rules.

She added: “If he has staff who were prepared to lie to him about what happened, it also says something about the culture.

“He has changed the story according to what gets leaked, that he has to answer.

“It is just time for him to go. He should resign, because how can he seriously expect anybody to listen to him telling them what they should do, when he doesn’t show any respect for it? It has been going on for such a long time.”

Dr Gardner’s legal challenge claims that the UK Government, and NHS England, unlawfully failed to do enough to protect the right to life of vulnerable care home residents in the early response to the virus.

The case is due to be heard in the high court early in the spring 2021, two years after her father died. His cause of death is recorded as “probable Covid” as he was not tested for the virus.

Dr Gardner, who represents Sidmouth Town on East Devon Council and is a member of the East Devon Alliance, has raised more than £130,000 with a public appeal to fund the joint legal challenge, but the campaign is still short of the total amount needed.

Cranbrook a ‘success’ despite lack of town centre!

The chief executive of one of the companies behind homes in Cranbrook has labelled the town a “real success”, despite the lack of a town centre.

Joe Ives

The comments were made by Paul Crawford, chief executive of LiveWest, one of the two main providers of affordable housing in Cranbrook.

Cranbrook currently has around 2,350 dwellings, equating to approximately 5,500 residents. Almost 8,000 new homes are yet to be constructed, which would give the town a population of more than 18,000.

Despite this, more than 10 years since the diggers went in, Cranbrook still has no town centre, which has led to consternation from many residents.

But Mr Crawford said: “We do have local shops. We do have a community centre. We do have schools that are thriving and there’s a good infrastructure both for road and for buses.

“Cranbrook has been a real success. It’s a really good example of civic leadership.

“I know there were over 9,000 complaints against Cranbrook being developed and I think you have to sort of recognise that East Devon [district council] showed great leadership and collaboration with Exeter to recognise that there was a need for a new settlement and it was masterplanned and it is successfully delivering homes that are needed for people within Devon who want to live and work in a beautiful part of the country.”

He argues that part of the reason why the town centre hadn’t materialised is because of the current economic uncertainty gripping the country amidst the pandemic and changing fortunes for high street retailers.

Mr Crawford added: “If commerce and retail don’t have the appetite to let that space and therein lies the problem. It’s a bit like asking LiveWest to build houses that no one wants to rent – we wouldn’t do it.

“A developer to go off and build a town centre now at a time where there may not be the confidence that people will rent those available units means that there have been delays and there will probably continue to be delays.

“I think it’s something we’re just going to have to work through rather than recognising that – as and when we get back to a new normal in terms of high streets and what that looks like – then we will start to see more confidence in developing the town centre.”

He admits there is an argument to say things could have been done differently, with the town centre coming earlier.

He says Cranbrook and Sherford, a new town to the east of Plymouth, could be used as case studies to find out what could be improved in future.

LiveWest, which owns and manages more 38,000 homes across the south west, plans to build 6,000 new homes across the region in the next five years.