Posted in response to Paul F: Hancock and the Bull testicles

His comment reads:

I don’t normally watch I’m A Celebrity, but I am going to have to find a way to be notified when there is a vote for the Bushtucker trials just so that I can exercise my Great British democratic voting rights and demonstrate my complete confidence in … oops, sorry that was a typo … I meant contempt for the Tories and Matt Hancock in particular.

I urge everyone else to join me in this important and essential fight for democracy and justice. So let’s all get voting – indeed lets ensure that this vote gets a massive best-ever turnout by several 100% – and make this a decisive landslide victory for Matt Hancock, because every vote for him being punished in the Bushtucker Trials is a vote of no confidence in the Tories.

The Daily Star (in the wake of its lettuce success) launches a campaign on its front page to get the part-time MP selected to do every one of the vile trials in the game show. A tantalizing prospect indeed. 

National Trust to plant 1,200 hectares of flower-filled grassland in Devon

A network of flower-filled grasslands sweeping from the fringes of sandy beaches to moorland edges is being created by the National Trust in the south-west of England.

The network will eventually stretch across 70 miles from close to the border with Cornwall in the west to the slopes of Exmoor in the east.

Steven Morris 

Designed to boost flora and fauna – and be a balm for human visitors – the new grassland is due to cover more than 1,200 hectares (3,000 acres) of land in north Devon by 2030.

The first of the sites have been sown by the trust this autumn and flowers should begin popping up in the spring. These will later be used as “donor sites” with seeds taken from them to plant up more spots over the years, a cost-effective way of scaling up the scheme.

A yellow kidney vetch flower.

Kidney vetch is one of the species that will be sown this autumn. Photograph: Clive Whitbourn/National Trust Images

Ben McCarthy, the head of nature conservation and restoration ecology at the trust, said the loss of flower-rich grasslands had led to life and colour being drained from the UK’s countryside.

He said: “Flower-rich hay meadows and pastures are a hugely important habitat that remain under constant threat from pressures including agricultural intensification and inappropriate management. These colourful and species rich habitats are critical to conserving many of our threatened plants as well as the wildlife that rely on them.”

The new habitats should draw in a wide range of wildlife including voles, bats, birds of prey and butterflies and the trust says they are also a good way of helping combat the climate emergency.

Meadow brown butterflies on oxeye daisy at Snowshill Manor, Gloucestershire

Meadow brown butterflies on oxeye daisy at Snowshill Manor, Gloucestershire. Photograph: Kate Groome/National Trust Images

McCarthy said: “Making changes to the land we manage ourselves and working with our tenant farmers to restore these wildlife rich grasslands secures better soil health, helps lock in soil carbon and improves water quality in our rivers as well as supporting wildlife such as pollinators.”

One of the first sites is at Arlington Court, near Barnstaple, where wildflower seeds such as birds-foot trefoil and knapweed have been sown in areas of the sprawling parkland.

On the coast at Woolacombe, species such as kidney vetch, viper’s-bugloss and salad burnet have been sown because they will do well in dunes and on clifftops.

The network will eventually stretch across 70 miles from close to the border with Cornwall in the west to the slopes of Exmoor in the east.

Joshua Day, project co-ordinator at the trust in north Devon, said it would not be a continuous strip but rather a series of pockets of grassland. “It might be a patch of grassland on the edge of a village or, on a grander scale, fields full of flowers.”

A field of yellow cowslip flowers.

Cowslip flowers, once common in the UK, are vital for pollinators like bumblebees. Photograph: Justin Minns/National Trust Images

The first 200 acres have been sown with 31 types of seed – 1.3 tonnes-worth – ranging from yellow rattle, which is known as a meadow maker as it creates good conditions for other wildflowers to grow, to oxeye daisy, good for invertebrates and human mental wellbeing as they make such an attractive sight.

These spots will become donor sites for the remainder of the project over the next eight years. Donor sites take up to three years after sowing to reach maturity before they can be harvested.

Day said: “We’ll leave the grasslands to really establish themselves for a couple of years and harvest the first seed in 2025. Every hectare we harvest from a donor site will provide us with seed to sow two more hectares.”

It is estimated that using donor sites and phasing the project could save the conservation charity more than £3m.

The charity Plantlife says that 97% of species-rich grassland has been lost in the last century.

Day said: “Once-common species such as eyebrights and cowslips have become ever rarer and this has had a disastrous impact on the species that are reliant on these flower-rich habitats like bumblebees and other pollinators.”

“We have a mandate from a landslide election win in 2019” says Simon Jupp 

Mandate for what?

Crashing the economy? 

Introducing Austerity 2.0?

This Conservative government has been so blown off-course by poor post-covid economic recovery, and the self-inflicted “Truss/Kwarteng Experiment”, that we have no idea what “mandated” policies will survive or are even deliverable. (Except lifting the cap on Bankers’ bonuses).

The prime minister’s press secretary has recently said ministers “need to look again” at a slew of promises made over the summer during Sunak’s losing battle with Liz Truss for the Tory leadership, but there was no end date to the review.

In September we were promised tax cuts and 2.5% economic growth! You, Simon, embraced this phantasy. We are now in a recession with record inflation and have been told to expect tax rises and spending cuts on November 17. Today, interest rates will increase again.

Mandate, what humbug!

(And please stop playing the blame game) – Owl

Simon Jupp 

I supported Rishi Sunak in the recent leadership contest, as I did in the seemingly never-ending leadership election over the summer. I am delighted he is now our Prime Minister as I firmly believe he is the best person to lead our great country. He has experience of high office and of dealing with major crises. I joined Liz Truss’ government because I wanted it to work, sadly it didn’t.

We have a mandate from a landslide election win for the Conservative Party in 2019. My party must quickly unite under Rishi Sunak as Prime Minister, get a grip, and govern.

The aftermath of Covid still lingers. Putin’s war in Ukraine has destabilised energy markets and supply chains the world over. That is why the new Prime Minister set out his vision to place economic stability at the heart of his government and to deliver on the mandate we secured to deliver a stronger NHS, better schools, safer streets, and control of our borders.

Looking forward, the Chancellor will deliver an Autumn Statement on 17th November 2022 with an OBR forecast. It will contain the UK’s medium term fiscal plan to put public spending on a sustainable footing, get debt falling, and restore stability.

The government’s promise to support people and businesses with their energy bills remains in place. The Energy Price Guarantee is a huge intervention alongside bespoke support for pensioners, people with disabilities, and those who rely on heating oil.

Unfortunately, industrial action is planned on our railways this month. Once again, unions will stage yet more strikes which cut off the South West from the railways, disrupting lives and livelihoods. Strikes will take place on Saturday 5th November, Monday 7th November and Wednesday 9th November. Around one in five trains are likely to run with major disruption between Exmouth and Exeter on the Avocet Line and services between Exeter and London.

It’s time to put passengers first. That’s why the government’s forthcoming Minimum Service Levels Bill will require employers and striking unions to maintain services during strikes. The Bill will therefore ensure people can carry on their daily lives and make vital medical appointments.

I will continue to do everything I can to support the people I serve, including holding more surgeries across the constituency. Regular readers will know that, despite my constituency name, I am MP for parts of the district of Exeter. I proudly represent St Loyes and Topsham.

In recent weeks in and around our city, I took part in a litter-pick in Topsham, visited Jacobs at Pynes Hill Court, hosted a dinner at the Exeter Golf & Country Club, met with councillors at County Hall, and attend the memorial service to the Queen at Exeter Cathedral. I’ve got lots more planned too.

I’m also putting pressure on South West Water to invest in water treatment plants which serve Topsham and St Loyes, I’m also working with Exeter City Council on a variety of investments across the city using £1.4m allocated to Exeter by the government, and supported a successful bid for £3.7m funding to reduce rough sleeping in the city. As ever, if you have a problem or a local issue you think I can help you with, then please get in touch.

Finally, during this year’s Poppy Appeal, please give generously to honour our veterans – past and present – and those who continue to protect us today.

‘Extremely difficult’ for Tories to win next election, says Sir John Curtice

It will be “extremely difficult” for the Conservatives to win the next general election after presiding over a fiscal crisis, although a change of prime minister makes predictions more complex, the leading pollster Sir John Curtice has said.

Peter Walker 

It is possible the party could succumb to a 1997-style landslide defeat, or even worse, Curtice, a professor of politics at Strathclyde University and viewed as the UK’s foremost polling expert, said at a briefing.

While the replacement of Liz Truss with Rishi Sunak has slightly curbed Labour’s lead, Curtice said, a defining factor is likely to be the U-turns Truss was forced to make from her September mini-budget after a turbulent market reaction.

Asked if it was possible for the Conservatives to win the next election, Curtice said: “History suggests that it’s going to be extremely difficult, just simply because no government that has presided over a fiscal financial crisis has eventually survived – 1948, 1967, 1976, 1992. It’s not a happy litany of precedence.

“Voters don’t forget governments being forced to make U-turns by financial markets. So it’s going to be very, very difficult.”

He said one glimmer of hope for the Tories was that polling showed notably more support for Sunak personally than for his party, seemingly a sign that the legacy of his role as chancellor during the Covid pandemic was “still with him”.

The key to Sunak turning around his party’s fortunes would be the fate of the economy in the next two years, Curtice said.

“One of the problems the government faces is compared with 1992 and 2008 [after previous economic crises], there isn’t much fat in public services,” he said. “It’s pretty clear that at the moment, two years out [from an election], the Labour party are favourites to win the next election, and for the first time in this parliament it looks like they’ve got a half-decent chance of getting an overall majority, and that is a fundamental change in the political outlook.”

Some of the Truss-era polling, if extrapolated to constituency-level votes, showed the Conservatives slumping to as few as 60 seats. Asked if the party faced a wipeout on the scale of 1997 or worse, Curtice said: “It probably won’t be that bad. But there is a risk that the Conservative party will suffer severely.”

Focusing on particular sectors of voters, such as those in the “red wall”, or who voted leave, would not be a solution, he argued.

“The Conservative party has lost ground across the whole of the electorate. They have lost this not because they are in favour of a small state or they’re in favour of Brexit, or the many ideological issues we can think of,” he said.

“They have lost ground because the public in general have decided they cannot be trusted to run the country, and when a party loses ground on competence, it loses grounds among everybody. Forget targeting – that only matters when it’s close. We’re nothing like close.”

While Sunak appears to have escaped being overly tarnished with the fallout from No 10 parties under Boris Johnson, despite his own fine, voters are still damning about the Conservatives on the issue, Curtice said.

“If I were providing advice to the prime minister, I would say the one thing you have to do is to play by the rules, not just the legal rules, but the rules of convention,” he argued. “That’s why reappointing the home secretary within days of her having resigned for having broken ministerial code was, shall we say, a brave decision.”

Kilmington landowner who felled trees is ordered to replace them

A landowner who cut down more than 200 mature trees in Kilmington has been ordered by the Forestry Commission to plant new ones. 

Philippa Davies

The trees, mainly oaks and beeches, were felled in February 2021. They were not subject to a protection order, but it is an offence to fell a large volume of timber without a licence from the Forestry Commission. 

The Forestry Commission visited the site after the trees had been cut down, and, following an investigation, issued the landowner with a ‘restocking notice’ last month. The notice requires the felled trees to be replaced with 945 new ones by the end of June 2024. The Commission will accept natural regrowth, but if this does not provide enough trees the landowner will have to plant them. He has been told that the newly planted trees must be a mix of field maple, willow, hazel, hawthorn, blackthorn, sycamore and elm. 

The Commission also stipulates that, for 10 years after planting or regeneration, the new trees must be properly protected against damage and the site must be adequately weeded and maintained in accordance with good forestry practice. 

The notice has been welcomed by one local resident who described the felling of the trees as ‘sheer environmental vandalism’. He said he had been shocked when he first saw the hundreds of sawn stumps on the land, and that the felling had caused ‘widespread public concern among residents of the village’. Not only had it destroyed some trees that could have been hundreds of years old; there was also the loss of a valuable habitat for wildlife, possibly including some protected species. 

He added that, while he was pleased that the Forestry Commission had taken action, he was surprised that the landowner had been given such a long time to replant the site, and also that the new trees would not be oaks and beeches to replace those that had been cut down, but different, faster growing species that would not achieve the same height. 

The Forestry Commission has been approached for comment on these issues, but at the time of writing has not given a response.