Downing Street has spent more than £2.6 million on refurbishments to hold White House-style press briefings, it has emerged.The cost of the renovations for the televised question and answer sessions with journalists was revealed as Boris Johnson …
Patrick J. Adams, who played Meghan’s love interest in the US series, branded the Royal Family “obscene” for “promoting and amplifying accusations of bullying” against her.
The actor went on to accuse the royals of being “bankrupt of decency”.
After posting the Twitter thread on Friday evening, Piers weighed in, calling the US actor a “jumped-up little twerp”.
The Good Morning Britain presenter tweeted: “Actually, what’s ‘OBSCENE’ is your friend trashing her husband’s family on global TV as the Queen’s 99-yr-old husband lies in hospital. How dare you attack our Royal Family like this, you jumped-up little twerp.”
He added: “Meghan Markle’s showbiz mates who flew over and grovelled up to the Royals at her wedding now publicly trashing the Monarchy – and suggesting it be abolished. Disgusting.”
Actually, what’s ‘OBSCENE’ is your friend trashing her husband’s family on global TV as the Queen’s 99-yr-old husband lies in hospital. How dare you attack our Royal Family like this, you jumped-up little twerp. https://t.co/pYUuCLje3w
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) March 5, 2021
Meghan Markle’s showbiz mates who flew over and grovelled up to the Royals at her wedding now publicly trashing the Monarchy – and suggesting it be abolished. Disgusting. 👇 https://t.co/ERUziToe0R
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) March 5, 2021
Following Patrick’s tweets, Suits creator Aaron Korsh also spoke out to share his support for Meghan, tweeting: “Meghan Markle is not a monster. She’s a strong woman with a kind heart who’s trying to make her way in an unimaginable situation.”
In a lengthy Instagram post shared on Friday, Abigail Spencer, another former Suits co-star, also shared a tribute to Meghan.
Earlier this week, Piers attempted to question Harry’s friend Ben Fogle about his thoughts on the Duke and Duchess’s interview with Oprah Winfrey during an appearance on Good Morning Britain.
But Ben, who was there to discuss his new documentary about the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, quickly shut Piers down.
“To be honest, Piers, I don’t want to dodge your question, I think you’re overestimating my friendship with the protagonists you’re talking about,” Ben said.
“In the middle of the wilderness here [in Suffolk] I’ve tried to abstain from news, and I try to stay out of other people’s business. I think it’s a very valid time for everyone to have an opinion, but it’s not really for me to say.”
Ben’s interview on GMB came a day after Susanna Reid accused her co-host of being “obsessed” with Meghan, and having a “negative filter” when it came to the Sussexes.
And Susanna isn’t the only one to have accused Piers of being unfairly critical of Meghan.
She told him: “You are a man, privileged to have power and influence and you are using your platform so irresponsibly to spout out this personal vendetta with nasty and vile comments knowing fully well that your words are containing bigotry, misogyny, sexism and racism.
“You don’t take responsibility for how you have contributed to the so-called royal crisis.”
The growing anger and the threat of industrial action risks eclipsing Rishi Sunak’s manicured budget and the successful vaccine roll-out, with calls for the public to support a slow hand clap next week against the pay proposals.
A 1% rise represents a drop in the bucket in the context of the government-backed Covid relief package worth £407bn.
NHS accounts for 2019/20 show that £45.1bn was spent on salaries and wages, meaning a rise of 1% would amount to approximately £450m. Under another estimate, the Department of Health and Social Care referenced a figure of £56.1bn covering permanent and “bank” staff spending in 2019/20 in evidence to the NHS pay review board. That would mean a 1% uptick costing around £561m.
Critics have pointed to how the government has lavished significant sums of money elsewhere, often on projects with questionable merits. Here are a list of just a handful or so that have caused anger in the last 18 months.
£2.6m: Refurbishment for White House-style press briefings
Downing Street has spent more than £2.6 million on renovations in order to hold White House-style press briefings, it was revealed on Saturday.
According to the PA news agency after a response to a Freedom of Information request, a total £2,607,767.67, largely excluding VAT, was spent to allow daily broadcasting by various news organisations within the Grade I listed building.
An extensive overhaul within No 9 Downing Street began last year as the government announced the plans to hold the televised question and answer sessions with journalists, with their launch long delayed during the coronavirus pandemic.
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said: “It would take around 100 years for a newly qualified nurse to get paid this kind of money.
“It sums up Boris Johnson’s warped priorities that he can find millions for vanity projects, while picking the pockets of NHS workers.”
Lib Dem deputy leader Daisy Cooper added: “This is nothing more than an expensive vanity project and is just more evidence that this government’s priority is spin, not substance.
“The prime minister himself said that he ‘owed his life’ to Covid doctors and nurses but now he’s happy to see front-line nurses take a real-terms pay cut, whilst he gets a flashy new TV studio – the prime minister should hang his head in shame.”
£37bn: Spending on troubled Test and Trace system
HuffPost UK revealed on Thursday that the small print of Sunak’s budget showed the Test and Trace system is to get another £15bn, bringing its total cost to £37bn. The funding for 2021/22 comes on top of this year’s spending allocation of £22bn.
MPs said that the “eye-watering” sums should prompt ministers to do more to prove that the system, run by Tory peer Dido Harding, was giving taxpayers real value for money.
£37 billion for their friends at Serco Test and Trace.
£3.50 a week for an NHS nurse.
Their contempt for public servants is absolute.
— Rachel Clarke (@doctor_oxford) March 5, 2021
Test and Trace has been dogged by criticism since its launch last April, with critics seizing on its use of private consultants at £1,000-a-day, its outsourcing to firms like Serco and its failure to deliver contact tracing rates or rapid test turnaround times seen as vital to stop the spread of Covid.
The National Audit Office published an interim report on Test and Trace last November which concluded that the government “needs to learn lessons” and that the service “is able to make a bigger contribution to suppressing the infection than it has to date”.
£340,000: Payout to Home Office official after Priti Patel bullying claims
On Thursday, it emerged the government agreed a “substantial” payout to settle a top civil servant’s employment tribunal claim after he quit amid allegations of home secretary Priti Patel’s bullying.
Home Office chief Sir Philip Rutnam is reported to have accepted a six-figure sum after launching legal action against the Cabinet minister.
The department’s former permanent secretary dramatically resigned in February last year, accusing Patel of a “vicious and orchestrated” briefing campaign against him, claiming constructive dismissal and accusing Patel of bullying her subordinates.
A 10-day employment tribunal to hear Sir Philip’s case was due to take place in September.
Neither the Home Office nor the the FDA Union would disclose the amount of the settlement but it is understood to be a “substantial” sum.
£4.4bn: Additional costs of Brexit preparations
Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union cost the taxpayer more than £4 billion in additional government costs, according to the Whitehall spending watchdog last March.
The NAO said that between the EU referendum in June 2016 and March 31 last year, government departments will have spent at least £4.4 billion, while £6.3 billion was allocated by the Treasury for Brexit preparations.
They included planning for both “deal” and “no deal” scenarios, with £2 billion specifically earmarked for “no deal” preparations in 2019-20 – although this was scaled back after the prospects of “no deal” receded.
Of the money spent, £1.9 billion went on staffing costs, £1.5 billion on building new systems and infrastructure, and £288 million on bringing in expertise and external advice.
At the peak of activity, in October 2019, there were 22,000 staff working on Brexit preparations, including 1,500 who had been moved within government to prepare for a possible “no deal” exit.
£150m: Millions of unusable face masks
During the early days of the pandemic, the government scrambled to secure deals with suppliers for precious personal protective equipment (PPE). Questions have been raised about many of the contracts, among the most notorious being a deal for 50 million face masks that did not work.
The masks were bought for NHS England from investment firm Ayanda Capital as part of a £252 million contract. But the government said because they used ear-loop fastenings rather than head loops, they may not have fit tightly enough for clinical use. It confirmed in court papers that the masks would not be used in the NHS.
Based on incomplete Whitehall figures, the Good Law Project and EveryDoctor estimate the 50m masks would have cost more than £150m of public money.
£60m: Falling short of supplying computers to disadvantaged schools
A £60m contract was awarded for the education department to provide laptops to teachers and disadvantaged children during the lockdown.
But in August, HuffPost UK revealed the scale of the failure to deliver the computers to the poorest communities. Figures obtained by the Children’s Commissioner for England showed 27 academy trusts were left with just one device each.
In April, education secretary Gavin Williamson pledged the government would fund devices for children on free school meals in Year 10, as well as for vulnerable pupils with social workers and care leavers. But, despite some 540,000 pupils being eligible for the scheme, just 220,000 laptops were delivered to schools by August as a second lockdown loomed.
£1m: Boris Johnson’s ‘Brexit plane’ gets a red, white and blue makeover
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A plane used to transport the prime minister and the royal family was given a red, white and blue makeover that cost almost £1m.
The once-grey RAF Voyager was resprayed in white, with a Union flag on the tailfin and United Kingdom written in gold on the fuselage.
Boris Johnson had complained about the military paint scheme used on the jet.
As well as being a serving military plane, Voyager is used to transport the prime minister and members of the royal family to engagements abroad.
The cost of the respray, undertaken at an airport in Cambridgeshire, was condemned by opposition politicians when it was revealed.
The SNP lambasted it as an “utterly unacceptable use of public funds”.
Downing Street, which confirmed the work would cost “around £900,000”, said the new colour scheme meant the plane could better represent the UK around the world with “national branding”.
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It’s A Sin has proved to be one of the biggest talking points of the year so far, and while it may have finished airing last month, exciting details about the show we’ve all been obsessed are still coming to light.
Hearing all the stories and reading new interviews about the Channel 4 series has certainly helped us deal with our emotions after that ending, so with that in mind, we’ve rounded up everything we’ve learned to spread a bit of joy – just like the Pink Palace pals would have wanted.
1. Three major networks originally turned the show down
A number of major players turned down the chance to commission It’s A Sin when writer and creator Russell T Davies first started pitching his show to them in 2015.
Speaking to Pink News, he revealed that even Channel 4 initially passed on it.
He said: “It always started at Channel 4. They said no. And then it went to BBC One and they said no.
“It even went to ITV at one point, and they just said: ‘Not yet. We’re not quite that sort of channel yet’.”
He continued: “It was a hard sell, you know… Genuinely, because it’s about people dying. It’s a tough piece of work.”
Channel 4 later reversed their decision thanks to their commissioning editor of drama, Lee Mason, who Russell says waited for “all the staff to change and all the heads of department to move on and then got the script out again” to try and get it made.
2. There were many flash-forward plots that were scrapped
The show was meant to feature a number of storylines that eventually had to be scrapped.
In an interview with Damian Barr’s Literary Salon, Russell revealed that It’s A Sin would ideally have run for eight episodes, and that there would have been an extra housemate living in the Pink Palace.
There was also supposed to be an episode that revisited the characters in the present day, which would have seen Roscoe discover he had HIV later in life and Jill confronting Ritchie’s mother about her behaviour as she visited her in her old age.
It also would have explored “sexual abuse at the heart of the Tozer household” and uncovered more about how Keeley Hawes’ character “ended up like she did”.
“It was never written, so it doesn’t exist, but it was kind of budgeted for,” Russell lamented.
3. Russell T Davies refused to write one proposed scene
Russell has detailed how he refused to bow to a suggestion put to him by one of the networks during the commissioning process because he thought it was “unbelievably crass”.
He told The Hollywood Reporter’s TV’s Top 5 podcast: “I was told at one channel, ’What if its start is on an AIDS ward in say, 1990 or 1992, with the machines and people dying, and then went, 10 years earlier….’.
“I thought that was unbelievably crass and literally refused to do it.”
“My producer said, ‘I know you don’t like that scene. If you just type it out, if you just type one page of that, it might get made’. I’d rather die than type that page. It’s the wrong way to tell it. There was a lot of nonsense like that.”
4. There was also one AIDS symptom he didn’t want to feature on screen
Speaking to HuffPost UK, Russell revealed that he chose not to portray one of the devastating symptoms of the virus as he feared it may inspire young adults to harm their own bodies.
“It’s also a wasting disease and a lot of patients get very very thin,” Russell said of the disease. “I didn’t want a lead actor with a lot of young fans [Olly Alexander] undergoing starvation because I think that’s asking them to follow, to copy.
“That’s the one thing I drew a line at, saying, ‘let’s not do thinness as a symptom because I don’t want it to look in any way glamorised or admirable,’ which things do simply by being on television.”
5. Ritchie’s involvement in Doctor Who was actually a tribute to a former sci-fi star
In episode four, we saw Ritchie make an appearance in a fictional 1988 episode of Doctor Who.
Not only was this a nod to It’s A Sin writer Russell T Davies’ role as an executive producer on the 2005 reboot of the sci-fi series, but it also served to pay tribute to late actor Dursley McLinden, who died from AIDS in 1995 at the age of 29.
In Episode 4 of #ItsASin we see Ritchie take a part in Doctor who! He plays the Character of Trooper Linden, Russel T Davies named this part after Dursley McLinden, who played Mike Smith in remembrance of the Daleks, he sadly passed away due to AIDS in 1995! @alexander_ollypic.twitter.com/LcZVoNqAmy
— The Doctor Who Pages (@DWpages) January 25, 2021
— Sean Campbell 🏳️🌈 (@SeanCampbell971) January 23, 2021
Dursely appeared as Mike Smith in the 1988 episode of Doctor Who called Remembrance Of The Daleks, while Olly Alexander’s character played Trooper Linden in a story called Regression Of The Daleks in It’s A Sin.
Russell described the moment as “a little smile” towards Dursley, telling Doctor Who Magazine: “It’s not me going, ‘Hooray, let’s get a few pages in Doctor Who Magazine’. It, literally, felt natural. I was really desperate to do it.
“It’s a little smile towards Dursley, who I loved. I did it for Dursley.”
6. He also used his Doctor Who connections to bring together a real bunch of Daleks from different eras
Director Peter Hoare told Digital Spy: “It’s all anachronistic because – as Doctor Who fans will tell you – the Daleks all come from different periods. They were owned by individuals, some of whom were ex-Doctor Who operators – Dalek operators. They brought their own Daleks, and they’re all from different Doctor Whos.”
“We had the right cameras as well,” he revealed. “We got hold of some studio floor cameras from the period, and we stuck on little logos that said ‘BBC TV colour’. I was just in heaven. It was brilliant.”
7. There were also some nods to Russell’s previous groundbreaking drama Queer As Folk
There was an Easter egg for Queer As Folk fans in the first episode of the series, as 80s BBC drama Juliet Bravo was seen playing on TV in the background of a scene.
In Queer As Folk, which aired on Channel 4 in 1999, one character memorably spent all night chasing after someone who had every episode of Juliet Bravo on tape.
Some viewers also spotted that some of the incidental music featured in It’s A Sin sounded like an updated version of that used in Queer As Folk.
8. While it was set in 1980s London, the show was filmed in Manchester
Paton Street, near the city’s Northern Quarter, served as the exterior location for the gang’s flat in Soho.
Designers added period cars and completed graffiti down the street, as well as adding poster boards, a postbox and telephone box from the time.
The houses down the far end of the street also had all their front doors changed, while the shop windows had to be regularly redressed during filming to reflect the 11-year period the show is set over.
9. The Pink Palace set was built in an empty school
Two gymnasiums had to be knocked together to create one giant space in which to build the London residence, which was actually built in a derelict school in Manchester.
The set was completely plastered before woodwork was added, wallpaper hung and distressed, and a bathroom and kitchen fitted, and the rooms completely dressed.
The school was also the backdrop for the hospital where Colin and Ritchie were treated.
A team of designers recreated the Middlesex Hospital in London – which was the first dedicated HIV ward when it was opened by Princess Diana in 1987 – along a 100-metre corridor, dressing it with six private rooms, kitchen, lounge area and a fully practical lift.
10. One woman’s house was completely turned upside down to become Richie’s parents’ home
Dressers completely redecorated all the rooms of the four bedroom house to become the Tozer household, even down to the smallest of details like the light switches.
The elderly lady who owned the property “welcomed the upheaval”, and after filming had finished, her house was given a fresh lick of paint.
While Ritchie’s parents lived on the Isle of Wight, the house was located in Rochdale, and therefore the sea view at the bottom of the hill as seen from the windows of the house was achieved using CGI.
11. Russell had second thoughts about one of Colin’s storylines
Prior to Colin’s death, it was revealed through flashbacks that he contracted HIV after having a sexual relationship with his former landlady’s son while they were living together.
His friends were unable to understand how he had the virus, as they believed he hadn’t had any sexual partners. However, Russell hesitated about revealing Colin’s backstory in the way he did.
“What I worried about was making that ‘whodunnit’ in a show that’s been very sober. I literally sat here at this desk thinking, ‘you can’t do that, you can’t do that, you can’t do that’,” he told online series It’s A Sin – After Hours.
“I did do it. Sometimes you just have to take a deep breath and do these things. I like it now with the end result. I think it closes Colin’s story off beautifully. But out of all the things that happen in this show, that is the one I worried about the most.”
He added: “I think there’s something very true in there – there’s a lot of closeted men who will have a sex life and not tell anyone about it.”
12. Colin actor Callum Scott Howells previously popped up on a BBC talent show
Callum auditioned for Let It Shine, which saw hopefuls trying out for a spot in a new musical based on the music of Take That, in 2017.
— N A T H A N🏴🇪🇺🏳️🌈 (@Nath_2389) February 4, 2021
In the unearthed clip, a 17-year-old Callum is seen introducing himself to judges Amber Riley, Dannii Minogue, Martin Kemp and Gary Barlow before going into a rendition of You’ll Be Back from the musical Hamilton.
While he won over the judges and earned himself 16 points out of a possible 20, Callum ended up bowing out of the contest before it went to the live shows.
13. Jill actor Lydia West had previously collaborated with Russell T Davies
In her first big TV role after graduating from drama school, Lydia played Bethany Bisme-Lyons in Russell’s 2019 BBC drama Years And Years.
The dystopian series followed a Manchester family over the course of 15 years against a backdrop of huge societal and political change.
“I’d take another Russell job in a heartbeat,” Lydia told Grazia about the possibility of working with the screenwriter for a third time.
14. The real-life Jill on which the character was based also featured in the series
Russell has spoken in many interviews that the character of Jill – played by Lydia West – is based on one of his friends, also called Jill, who watched many of her close friends die from AIDS as she supported them through their illness in the 80s.
Jill Nalder actually appeared in It’s A Sin as the fictional Jill’s mother, who is seen joining with her daughter and their friends at an AIDS march.
Russell and Jill became friends after meeting at the West Glamorgan Youth Theatre in the 70s.
Speaking about seeing the fictionalised version of herself, Jill told the BBC: “The two things I relate to the most is frantically searching for information about the virus. I became like a dictionary of AIDS-related infections.
“And the hospital visits. Walking down the corridors and looking into the rooms and in each one seeing people around my age dying with AIDS. Seeing people with the kaposi sarcoma, the black marks on the skin, for the first time.”
Of playing someone based on a real person, Lydia told Jessie Ware’s Table Manners podcast: “I think even knowing Jill, my character, was based on someone in Russell’s life, that was just enough for me, but knowing she was playing my mother, I was just double whammied. I couldn’t handle it.
“She was just like fictional Jill. She’s so so kind. So loving. She lived in the pink palace. Worked in the West end, in theatre growing up. She nursed people in their dying days.
“She would be on set, and would have so many anecdotes from the time… It was just such a huge source of inspiration for me to listen to her. I was in awe of everything she said. She’s so special. She’s so important.”
15. The cast had to work hard to perfect their ‘La!’s
“La!” was a greeting the gang would say at every opportunity following Ritchie’s turn in drag in episode one, and it actually derived from something Russell and the real-life Jill used to say with their friends.
Russell put the cast through their paces to perfect their “La!”s, with Lydia revealing on Jessie Ware’s Table Manners podcast: “It took some training. Russell had us doing all sorts of “La!” to get it right.
“It was their private joke between himself, Jill and some other of their friends who lived in the pink palace. It had to be right. It wasn’t just a made up fictional joke.”
She added: “We were in rehearsals that first week, trying to get it right and Peter [Hoar, the director] was like ‘I actually don’t know the difference between all your La’s’. We did it so many times.”
It’s A Sin is available as a boxset on All4.
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