‘Operation Save Big Dog’ To ‘The Pork Pie Plot’: Westminster’s Word Salad Explained

(And get ready for the nuanced report from Sue Gray, who did for Damian Green with the single word “plausible”. According to Politico London Playbook “It’s not going to be as good as what people think. She’s genuinely struggling to reconcile the prime minister’s claim that this was a work event with what she’s been hearing from other people. It’s very difficult for her.”– Owl)

Graeme Demianyk www.huffingtonpost.co.uk 

Westminster is a jargon-filled place at the best of times (hello to “laying a statutory instrument”). But in recent days, British political watchers could be forgiven for being utterly confused by the salad of words being casually served up. Here’s our best attempt to explain what they mean.

Last Friday, the Independent reported Boris Johnson was drawing up a list of officials to offer resignations in a bid to save his prime ministership. What’s more, the PM reportedly called the plan “Operation Save Big Dog”.

The idea is to limit the damage caused by the much-anticipated Sue Gray report in the numerous alleged rule-breaking Westminster and Whitehall parties during lockdowns. The boozy gatherings were variously said to be fuelled by “a suitcase of wine” and “wine time Friday”.

Dan Rosenfield, Johnson’s chief of staff, and his private secretary Martin Reynolds, the man behind the infamous ‘BYOB’ party email, were being considered as possible falls guys.

The Independent reported: “The ‘save big dog’ plan includes a communications ‘grid’ in the lead up to the investigation’s conclusion and beyond.”

Operation Red Meat

If saving “Big Dog” is the over-arching aim, then “Operation Red Meat” is the suite of policies (punched in to the aforementioned “grid”) being set out by ministers underpinning the mission. By offering “red meat” to Tory MPs, the thinking is they can be distracted from the Downing Street party allegations and dissuaded from attempting a coup.

Among the initiatives designed to please riled Conservative voters, as well as the backbenchers, is putting the BBC on notice that the licence fee could be replaced after the current deal ends in 2027 (although that already appears to be in retreat). Culture secretary Nadine Dorries has confirmed that the annual payment will be frozen at £159 until 2024, however.

On Wednesday, Johnson confirmed the end England’s Plan B measures, including mask-wearing and work-from-home guidance, on their current expiry date of January 26. They were warmly welcomed by the lockdown-sceptic MPs on the Conservative benches, and the move avoided another massive rebellion if he tried to renew them.

Newspapers have been reporting Tory kite-flying on tougher action against Channel crossings, tasking the military with reducing the number of small boats risking the journey. The Times reported plans are being drawn up to send migrants, including asylum seekers, to countries such as Rwanda and Ghana for processing.

Senior Cabinet minister Michael Gove was reported to be preparing to publish his “levelling up” plans to improve lives in neglected areas across the country.

New plans are also expected to alleviate the impending cost-of-living crisis and further tackle the backlog of operations in the health service caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Operation Dog’s Dinner and Operation Dead Meat

But not everyone has read the script.

Some Tory MPs were not that impressed with the MoD taking over command of the Channel, warning the Royal Navy will be operating a “taxi service” for migrants. Conservative MP Philip Hollobone said in the Commons: “This isn’t Operation Red Meat, it’s Operation Dog’s Dinner.”

Meanwhile, the government of Ghana dismissed any suggestion it is involved in the migrant crackdown. In a tweet, the country’s ministry of foreign affairs has denied talks are ongoing with the UK about hosting a migrant processing facility.

The Ghanaian government not only slapped down the notion it was involved – it even referred to the flurry of ideas as “Operation Dead Meat”.

It said: “The ministry of foreign affairs and regional integration wishes to state categorically that Ghana has not engaged with the UK on any such plan and does not intend to consider any such operation in the future.”

Albania has also dismissed the claim the country is involved in offshoring asylum seekers, with the country’s ambassador telling The Independent it would be “against international law” and “totally contrary to the position of (his) country”.

“2019-ers”, “Grey Wolves”, and “The Pork Pie Plot”

Despite the attempts to rally MPs behind their leader, Tory wounds appeared to have widened rather than healed. Eight Tory MPs have publicly called for Johnson to go (including one that on Wednesday defected to Labour), and the feeling was the plot to oust Johnson was widening.

On Tuesday, around 20 MPs from the 2019 election intake – called “2019-ers” by many blue-tickers on Twitter – were said to have met to discuss Johnson’s future. The summit was nicknamed the “pork pie plot” (see also: “pork pie putsch”) because it was allegedly hosted in the office of MP Alicia Kearns, whose Melton Mowbray constituency is the home of the traditional meat pie.

It’s unclear where the pastry-themed rebellion fits in with Operation Rinka, a Tory counter-attack on Operation Save Big Dig that’s named after the dog killed in the Jeremy Thorpe affair in the 1970s, according to the Guardian.

Sky News’s deputy political editor Sam Coates reported an “ally” of Johnson dismissing the MPs elected three years ago as “grey wolves … because they were not socialised in parliament during the pandemic”.

Another senior MP said told Politico: “Some of these pork pie-rs are getting high on the adrenaline of change rather than thinking through the implications for party and government.”

The Mirror and the i reported one MP joking that the unrest would not be quelled. “It’s not Operation Big Dog, it’s Operation Massive Cock,” they mused.

Cranbrook Plan – Proposed Main Modification consultation – East Devon

Consultation period:  17 January 2022 to 28 February 2022 closing at 5pm


In conjunction with the independent Planning Inspector, Janet Wilson BA (Hons) BTP MRTPI DMS, who is examining the Plan, and following a direction from her, a Schedule of Proposed Main Modifications (PMMs) to the submitted Cranbrook Plan has now been prepared.

In accordance with Regulation 20 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 (as amended) these changes are now subject to a formal 6 week consultation.  Any comments that you wish to make should be submitted on the forms set out at the bottom of this page and should address whether the proposed Main Modifications comply with legal requirements and are considered necessary to make the plan sound.

The schedule of proposed main modifications (PMMs) can be accessed here

The Council has also prepared the following documents which form part of the consultation.  The documents can be accessed by clicking on the relevant titles:

Updated/additional documents which support the plan making process have also been prepared.  These can be accessed by clicking on the relevant titles: 

(Minor Council proposed modifications are not required to make the plan sound but they either make the plan clearer and easier to understand or they correct factual errors.  They are presented within this document for information purposes only.  As they do not form a Main modification, they are not endorsed by the Inspector capable of being changed by her or form part of the consultation).

Copies of the consultation documents can be viewed at the District Council Office in Honiton or the Town Council Office in Cranbrook by prior arrangement.  Please allow at least 2 clear working days’ notice between your request and your preferred time to view the documents.

To arrange to view the document please email either:

plancranbrook@eastdevon.gov.uk (to view in Honiton) or

clerk@cranbrooktowncouncil.gov.uk (to view in Cranbrook).

How to make a representation?

Comments can be made on the consultation documents by completing the forms below. 

Where comments relate to the Proposed Main Modifications they will be considered by the Inspector. Comments made should not introduce new concerns or repeat comments made at earlier stages of the examination. Comments made in respect of each of the PMMs, Policies map and schedule or other documents, should all be separately referenced and clearly distinguished from one another. Please note that comments are only permitted in relation to the Main Modifications. 

Comments received on the proposed Main Modifications, will be collated and submitted to the Secretary of State for consideration as part of the examination by the Planning Inspector.

Please note that copies of all comments will be made available for the public to view (including your name, but will not include any personal contact details or signatures), and therefore cannot be treated as confidential. Data will be processed and held in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulations 2018 and Data Protection Act 2018.

The consultation period will run from Monday 17 January 2022 to Monday 28 February 2022 closing at 5pm. Representations made must be received by this time.

Consultation response forms

To submit comments on this consultation please complete one part A and B form for your personal details and first PMM that you wish to comment on, and separate part B forms for each subsequent PMM that you wish to comment on.

Link to form A & B

Link to form B

Please email the completed form to: plancranbrook@eastdevon.gov.uk

Alternatively, you can post your completed form to: The Cranbrook Plan, Planning Policy, East Devon District Council, Blackdown House, Border Road, Heathpark Industrial Estate, Honiton, EX14 1EJ.

Welcome to the baffling world of local government 

Letters www.theguardian.com

“Please, someone, explain,” pleads Adrian Chiles at the end of his article on how local democracy works (I believe in local democracy – I just don’t understand it, 13 January). On the basis of two years’ experience as a local parish councillor, I can tell him that in the case of parish councils, “it doesn’t”.

In those two years, at the end of which I resigned in utter frustration, I learned that our parish council has virtually no powers or decision-making authority with respect to anything of significant importance.

Almost all matters of significance are the responsibility, and within the jurisdiction, of someone else: planning and housing (borough council and central government); roads and road safety, including local speed limits (county council and central government); education/schools (education authority and central government); health and social care (health trust, county council and central government); crime, policing and public safety (police and crime commissioner, and the home secretary); bus service (county council, bus service providers and central government); flooding (county council).

In its election manifesto in 2019, the Conservative party wrote: “Our new Towns Fund will help communities make sure their towns are safe to walk in and a pleasure to be in … Above all, we want the town’s future to be in the hands of the people who live there.”

The reality, however, is that during its first two years in office, the central government has sought to increase its control over decision-making, at the expense of the authority of local government, in almost all of the areas of governance that I have listed above.

Philip C Stenning

Eccleshall, Staffordshire

Sajid Javid’s axing of all Covid restrictions draws warnings from NHS

“The speed of the plans, even with confirmed daily UK cases above 108,000 on Wednesday, and nearly 19,000 Covid patients in hospital, has brought speculation that a main motivation has been to provide a politically embattled Johnson with some good news for his mutinous MPs.”

Peter Walker www.theguardian.com 

The government has pledged to abolish almost every existing Covid restriction over the coming weeks in England and “get life completely back to normal”, a course popular with Conservative MPs but which immediately prompted stark warnings from health groups.

The NHS Confederation said the move would inevitably place renewed pressure on hospitals, while the British Medical Association said the changes planned were “not guided by the data”.

After Boris Johnson announced the end of all plan B rules, imposed to cope with the Omicron variant, by next week, Sajid Javid set out the government’s wider vision to go further, with rules on self-isolation expected to be replaced by voluntary guidance in March.

“I will come back in the spring and set out how we will live with Covid,” the health secretary told a No 10 press conference. “But the way we are going to do this is that we are going to have to find a way to remove almost all of these restrictions, and get life completely back to normal.”

The speed of the plans, even with confirmed daily UK cases above 108,000 on Wednesday, and nearly 19,000 Covid patients in hospital, has brought speculation that a main motivation has been to provide a politically embattled Johnson with some good news for his mutinous MPs.

In a hastily arranged Commons statement on Wednesday, Johnson announced the cabinet had agreed an end to all plan B measures. Advice on working from home would change immediately, while compulsory mask-wearing on public transport and in shops and vaccine certificates would cease next week.

To cheers from some on the Conservative benches, Johnson announced an immediate end to the need for pupils to wear masks at secondary schools.

While Javid has been seen as one of the more cautious cabinet voices on Covid rules in recent months, he expanded on Johnson’s theme, telling the press conference he expected vaccination and testing would be the only measures to remain.

“This plan has worked and the data shows that Omicron is in retreat,” he said. While warning of “bumps in the road”, perhaps including new variants, Javid said the UK “must learn to live with Covid in the same way we have to live with flu”.

Addressing the press conference alongside Javid, Susan Hopkins, the chief medical adviser to the UK Health Security Agency, did not take up invitations to openly disagree with the strategy, but was less bullish, stressing that any end to self-isolation would have to be based on evidence.

While rules on masks would go, Hopkins urged the public to “take our personal behaviour seriously” and use face coverings when in crowded places among strangers.

However, medical and NHS groups expressed alarm, while teaching unions warned that the changes were taking place at a time when many English schools were still seeing widespread disruption because Covid.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the British Medical Association, said ending plan B measures rapidly could create a rebound in still-high infections and “risks creating a false sense of security” with the NHS still under crippling pressure.

“This decision clearly is not guided by the data,” Nagpaul said. “When plan B was introduced in December, there were 7,373 patients in hospital in the UK. The latest data this week shows there are 18,9791.

Chaand said ditching mask-wearing mandates “will inevitably increase transmission and place the public at greater risk, especially for those who are vulnerable”. He also said the announcement of plans to end self-isolation rules was “premature”.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents the healthcare system in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, accused ministers of not being honest with the public that the decision to lift restrictions was “a trade-off”.

He said: “We will have greater freedoms but the cost – at least in the short term – will be that more people are likely to get sick with Covid, and that the health service will continue to have to deal with the extra burdens that this creates.”

Mary Bousted, the joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said that while the trend of secondary school infections was down, it could change: “Such uncertainty could lead to a pronounced risk of increased disruption with children and staff having to isolate.”

A director of public health in a city in the north of England said they were also concerned at the move. “This feels like more of a political decision than a decision based on the evidence and the science, and it could be quite London-centric,” they said.

“We’re seeing a reduction in cases, but they’re still incredibly high. Taking out all these measures does feel risky.”

The changes apply only to England. Covid restrictions, as part of health policy, are a devolved matter.

More on the state of our rivers and the regulator

Dear Owl

I have fished our rivers for more than 60 years. Where we now are was predicted when the National Rivers Authority was subsumed into the EA in 1996.

The EA do not publicly accept that they are short of money and people and still employ people whose job is to promulgate platitudinous drivel.

I recently subscribed to a petition and have posted the government’s response below. It did not fill me with confidence.

Roland Craven, Ottery St. Mary

“Dear Roland Craven,

The Government has responded to the petition you signed – “Give the Environment Agency the funds and freedom to protect English rivers”.

Government responded:

     The Government recognises the importance of protecting the natural environment and are investing accordingly to progress our 25 Year Environment Plan and its commitment to clean and plentiful water.

     We are determined to build back greener following the pandemic and progress our 25 Year environment Plan and its commitment to clean and plentiful water.

     The Government recognises the importance of protecting the nation’s natural environment and we are investing accordingly.

     The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs Spending Review settlement provides a £4.3 billion cash increase over the rest of this Parliament to £7 billion in 2024-25.

     The settlement will allow us to deliver on the Government’s ambitious environmental agenda to halt the decline in species abundance by 2030, achieve Net Zero by 2050, increase resilience to flooding and coastal erosion, support innovation and progress the levelling up agenda.

     The settlement delivers against the goals of the 25 Year Environment Plan for nature’s recovery and includes more than £250 million in public investment over three years to include, among other things, tackling nutrient pollution in rivers and streams.

     The Spending Review 2021 also sets a stretching new target to raise at least £500 million in private finance for nature’s recovery every year by 2027 and more than £1 billion a year by 2030.

     The Government has taken powers in the Environment Act 2021 to create new, legally-binding targets in four priority areas including water. These new targets will be an important mechanism to drive

environmental improvement and meet our ambitious objectives for the water environment in the 25 Year Environment Plan.

     The Act places clear duties on water and sewerage companies to progressively reduce the adverse impacts of discharges from storm overflows and improve transparency of reporting when discharges occur.

     The Environment Agency is driving transparency with 80% of storm overflows now having Event Duration Monitors and all overflows will be monitored by the end of 2023, allowing water companies to report the frequency and duration of spills to the Environment Agency (EA) each year so they can  assess compliance. The Environment Agency is acting on new information, suggesting that some water companies in England may indeed not be complying with their permits and a major Environment

Agency/Ofwat investigation has been launched.

     We are committed to funding the EA to improve the water environment. For example, we are providing additional funding to the EA to increase their farm inspection regime nationwide over the next 18 months. In 2021/2 this includes an expectation of a fourfold increase in farm inspections undertaken nationally with plans to scale up further in 2022/3.

     Whilst necessary to uphold basic standards, enforcement of the regulations alone are not sufficient because farmers need advice to understand the risks posed to water by agriculture and funding support

where actions beyond regulatory requirements are needed to reduce pollution further.

     We are expanding the Catchment Sensitive Farming Programme, almost doubling its funding by providing an additional £17 million over the next three years to enable it to cover 100% of farms in England. Over the last 15 years this programme has been one of the main ways to help farmers tackle pollution which results from manure, fertiliser and soil running off into rivers when it rains. It provides free 1-2-1 advice to farmers to help them reduce water and air pollution through management

of nutrients, soils, animals and infrastructure among other things.

     Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Click this link to view the response online:


The Petitions Committee will take a look at this petition and its response. They can press the government for action and gather evidence. If this petition reaches 100,000 signatures, the Committee will consider it for a debate.

The Committee is made up of 11 MPs, from political parties in government and in opposition. It is entirely independent of the Government. Find out more about the Committee:



The Petitions team

UK Government and Parliament

Cornwall Council declares social care critical incident

From today’s Western Morning News:

DESPERATE measures to get elderly patients out of hospital and into social care are to be undertaken in the Westcountry in response to a health care crisis.

Cornwall Council yesterday declared a critical incident in adult social care, echoing a similar warning from the National Health Service.

The council pledged to work with its 70 homecare providers and 222 care homes to find accommodation for 180 patients, who have finished their hospital treatment but are currently blocking beds needed for new cases.

It has also called on residents to help out neighbours or friends recently discharged from hospital to ease the pressure on the system.

Cllr Andy Virr, Cabinet Member for Care and Wellbeing said: “These extraordinary circumstances require a different level of response in our care system, which is currently unable to meet demand – particularly for hospital discharges. This approach will see us work as one system, sharing risk in order to meet these increased demands, and I’d like to say a big thank you to those families and service users who are helping support us in this.

“If you have a friend or neighbour who was recently discharged from hospital please consider how you might be able to help in their recovery. It can be something as simple as running an errand or making a phone call to check they’re OK.”

The council is also asking the voluntary sector to mobilise resources to support efforts to free up 100 beds within two weeks.

Hospitals across the South West have reported huge pressure during the coronavirus crisis, made worse by the problem of finding care for patients ready to go home.

Boris Johnson is interviewed in “Line of Duty”

Line of Duty creator Jed Mercurio has produced a bonus episode for fans following the show’s nail-biting finale.

Ted Hastings, Steph Corbett and Steve Arnott face one of their most difficult challenges to date after they came face-to-face with a serial liar in the latest episode.

Questioning the prime minister of Great Britain, Boris Johnson, they delve into his deception around a BYOB party hosted in Downing Street during the height of lockdown.

Hastings concluded that the PM “knowingly and intentionally flouted the rules” because he believes he’s “above the law”. – The London Economic

Watch the clip on twitter in full here.

Energy crisis: PM and Sunak won’t feel heat of rising bills

Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak will not be hit by the expected sharp rise in energy bills in April because of a cap on the contributions they have to make towards their Downing Street flats.

Oliver Wright www.thetimes.co.uk

Under the rules, the prime minister and chancellor are allowed their “grace and favour” accommodation rent-free, with utility bills and council tax also covered by the government.

As part of an agreement with HM Revenue & Customs, unlike other “benefits in kind” paid to employees, their total taxable liability is limited to 10 per cent of their ministerial salary. This means they will not be expected to pay more when energy bills rise.

Ofgem, the energy regulator, is due next month to announce a rise in the maximum amount that energy companies can charge customers.

Analysts believe that, unless the government steps in to reduce taxes on bills, the cap could increase by about 50 per cent, pushing up the average cost of bills to almost £2,000 a year.

Johnson and Sunak will not have to pay the bill because of a longstanding agreement with the tax authorities that because they are expected to live in Downing Street for security reasons, it would not be fair to charge them the full cost of the benefit. The story, first reported by MailOnline, is likely to increase pressure on the government to take action to limit the effect on bills before Ofgem’s announcement.

A government spokeswoman said: “As has always been the case, the prime minister and chancellor are provided with residential accommodation in Downing Street.

“It is not possible to disaggregate the energy costs of 10-12 Downing Street, as it is one combined building.”

Asked what action was being taken on bills, the prime minister’s official spokesman said: “Discussions are still ongoing.”

Hubris, Hugo?

“When did Tobias Ellwood become a ‘senior Tory MP’ to anyone other than anti-Conservative commentators?” sneered Sir Hugo Swire on Twitter after his former colleague had a pop at the PM. As chairman of the defence select committee, Ellwood is perhaps a touch more senior than Swire, once a minister in the Foreign Office (he outranked Swire in the army too), but there may be a personal reason for this envy. In 2017, Ellwood gave first aid to a dying police officer after a terrorist attack on the parliamentary estate. Swire’s wife, Sasha, noted in her diaries that her husband wished it had been him. “He has longed for the headline ‘Hugo the have-a-go hero’,” she wrote, “but it will never happen.”

Extract from Times Diary,Patrick Kidd www.thetimes.co.uk