Italian ‘orange vest’ protesters take to the streets of Rome and Milan

Italian ‘orange vest’ protesters take to the streets of Rome and Milan demanding an end to lockdowns while chanting ‘the virus doesn’t exist’

  • Orange vest protestor have organised marches in Rome and Milan demanding an end to the Government
  • Leader and ex-carabinieri general Antonio Pappalardo has claimed that coronavirus ‘does not exist’ 
  • Members of the neo-fascist group CasaPound and ‘March on Rome’ protestors were also present
  • The southern European nation has 232,664 confirmed coronavirus cases and a death toll of 33,340
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

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Orange vest protestors have taken to the streets of Italian cities to demonstrate against the Government’s strict Covid pandemic lockdown, claiming the virus ‘does not exist’.

The anti-lockdown group are demanding for Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s Government to be replaced by a national Government and the ‘return to the Italian lira’.

Italian businesses have only recently been allowed to reopen after more than two months of a nationwide lockdown meant to curb the spread of the virus, but hundreds took to the streets in Rome and Milan to demand an immediate end to the restrictions. 

The country has confirmed 232,664 coronavirus cases and a death toll of 33,340, having at one point suffered the highest death rate in the world.  

The group, led by ex-general of the carabinieri Antonio Pappalardo, converged on the Piazza Duomo in Milan this morning, disregarding social distancing measures and with almost no one wearing face masks. 

They were joined for the protests by the far right groups ‘March on Rome’ in the country’s capital, as well as neo-fascists Casapound. It is reported that all the groups are demanding an end to the lockdown measures with immediate effect.

Orange vest protestors have taken to the streets of Italian cities to demonstrate against the Government’s strict Covid pandemic lockdown, claiming the virus ‘does not exist’. Pictured: Former cabinieri General Antonio Pappalardo

The anti-lockdown group are demanding for Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte's Government to be replaced by a national Government and the 'return to the Italian lira'

The anti-lockdown group are demanding for Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s Government to be replaced by a national Government and the ‘return to the Italian lira’

Protestors have clashed with riot police on the streets of Rome, with some demonstrating against economic problems due to the coronavirus pandemic lockdown

Protestors have clashed with riot police on the streets of Rome, with some demonstrating against economic problems due to the coronavirus pandemic lockdown

They were joined for the protests by the far right groups 'March on Rome' (pictured) in the country's capital, as well as neo-fascists Casapound. It is reported that all the groups are demanding an end to the lockdown measures with immediate effect

They were joined for the protests by the far right groups ‘March on Rome’ (pictured) in the country’s capital, as well as neo-fascists Casapound. It is reported that all the groups are demanding an end to the lockdown measures with immediate effect

In a moment of tension, protesters in Rome with raised arms approached a riot police cordon that blocked the group’s way, before trying to push over an armoured police car.

‘Get us through,’ they were reported as shouting by La Repubblica. Police then used pepper spray to disperse the crowd of around 70 protestors according to police reports. 

Milan’s mayor Beppe Sala shared his anger at the protestors on twitter, saying: ‘I asked the prefect to denounce the organizers of the so-called “orange vests” demonstration: it is an act of irresponsibility in a city like Milan that is trying so hard to get out of the difficult situation where it is.’

Some among the crowds were also protesting the economic hardship the lockdown has brought, with thousands of businesses forced to shut leaving families without income.

‘Here are people who don’t eat,’ said one protestor from Bergamo. ‘There are people who have not taken a salary for 4 months. We are hungry. They made us die.’

Prime Minister has said that the country is taking a ‘calculated risk’ as it moves to further ease its coronavirus lockdown measures in an attempt to return to a new normal and revive a flailing economy.

The premier added that while the ‘contagion curve’ could rise again, the country could not afford to wait for a vaccine to be developed.

Mr Conte announced that travel to and from Italy, and between the country’s regions would be allowed from 3 June, and gyms, swimming pools and sports centres will reopen on 25 May, and cinemas and theatres on 15 June.

Travellers from EU countries will be able to enter Italy without going into a two-week quarantine. 

In a moment of tension, protesters in Rome with raised arms approached a riot police cordon that blocked the group's way, before trying to push over an armoured police car

 ‘Get us through,’ they were reported as shouting by La Repubblica . Police then used pepper spray to disperse the crowd of around 70 protestors according to police reports

In a moment of tension, protesters in Rome with raised arms approached a riot police cordon that blocked the group's way, before trying to push over an armoured police car

In a moment of tension, protesters in Rome with raised arms approached a riot police cordon that blocked the group’s way, before trying to push over an armoured police car

Some among the crowds were also protesting the economic hardship the lockdown has brought, with thousands of businesses forced to shut leaving families without income

Some among the crowds were also protesting the economic hardship the lockdown has brought, with thousands of businesses forced to shut leaving families without income



Hot summer could curb the spread of Covid-19, says top epidemiologist 

Hot summer could curb the spread of Covid-19 as virus particles spread in water will evaporate in sunny weather, says top epidemiologist

A long, hot summer could help curb the spread of Covid-19, according to a top epidemiologist.

Professor Keith Neal of Nottingham University said some virus particles were spread in minuscule specks of water that would evaporate in sunny weather.

Stripped of moisture, the particles infect people for a much shorter time and surfaces are less likely to be contaminated.

A long, hot summer could help curb the spread of Covid-19, according to Professor Keith Neal of Nottingham University (file photo)

‘Viruses don’t like getting dried out because it disrupts the fatty “envelope” that surrounds the protein shell,’ said Prof Neal. He added that very strong ultra-violet light also degraded the virus, although it was unclear if summer sunlight was intense enough.

However, the breezes of recent days may help disperse the virus. This matters because the number of particles a person is exposed to – called the viral load – is crucial.

Most people’s immune systems will cope with a few dozen virus particles, but become overwhelmed when exposed to hundreds or thousands of them.

Another reason that summer may help curb the virus is that people tend to socialise farther apart when they are outside.

The breezes of recent days may help disperse the virus. This matters because the number of particles a person is exposed to ¿ called the viral load ¿ is crucial (file photo)

The breezes of recent days may help disperse the virus. This matters because the number of particles a person is exposed to – called the viral load – is crucial (file photo)

Prof Neal said: ‘There’s more inherent social distancing.

‘Outside, if you’re within a metre of me, then you’re invading my personal space.’

However, he warned: ‘A warm summer won’t be any good for the virus, but how much damage it will do, we don’t know. It won’t get rid of it completely.’



Donald Trump doubles down on blaming the ‘radical left and ANTIFA’ for George Floyd protests

Donald Trump has doubled down on blaming the ‘radical left and ANTIFA’ for George Floyd protests across America and warned he will stop ‘mob violence cold’ as Secret Service agents in riot gear clash with demonstrators outside the White House for a second day.  

Speaking at Cape Canaveral after the successful launch of Elon Musk‘s Space X rocket, Trump blasted what he called the ‘rioters, looters and anarchists’ that have taken to the streets of at least 30 cities this week to demand justice over Floyd’s death and warned them that ‘there will be no anarchy’.  

‘The memory of George Floyd is being dishonored by rioters, looters and anarchists,’ he told crowds.  

‘The violence and vandalism is being led by ANTIFA and other radical left wing groups who are terrorizing the innocent, destroying jobs, hurting businesses and burning down buildings.’ 

His comments come as tensions started building between protesters and law enforcement in Washington DC for a second day Saturday leading the District of Columbia to call in the National Guard.

This followed similar scenes Friday which forced the White House to go into an emergency lockdown when some demonstrators tried to scale the walls of the grounds. 

Donald Trump has doubled down on blaming the ‘radical left and ANTIFA’ for George Floyd protests across America and warned he will stop ‘mob violence cold’ as Secret Service in riot gear clash with demonstrators outside the White House for a second day

Trump blasted the crowds of protesters as ‘mobs’ and ‘criminals’.

‘The mobs are devastating the life’s work of good people and destroying their dreams,’ he slammed. 

He then gave a chilling threat to protesters that they will be stopped ‘cold’ by his administration – a day after he sparked outrage for making the inflammatory statement that ‘when the looting starts the shooting starts’ and the same day he tweeted that anyone scaling the White House grounds would be faced with ‘ominous weapons’. 

‘My administration will stop mob violence and stop it cold,’ he said Saturday. 

‘We must not allow a small group of criminals and vandals to wreck our cities and lay waste to our communities.’ 

The president made another thinly-veiled dig at Minneapolis officials over their response to the mounting tensions between law enforcement and demonstrators in the city where Floyd died, saying it ‘does not serve the interest of justice’ for officials to ‘give in’ to protesters.

‘It does not serve the interest of justice or any city of any race, color or creed for that government to give in to anarchy, abandon police precincts or allow communities to be burned to the ground,’ he said. ‘It won’t happen.’

A second day of protests turned ugly at the White House Saturday

A second day of protests turned ugly at the White House Saturday

At least three Secret Service vehicles were seen with their windows smashed and with profanities scrawled on the side of them

At least three Secret Service vehicles were seen with their windows smashed and with profanities scrawled on the side of them

Protesters chanted 'Black Lives Matter' and 'I can't breathe' - some of the last words Floyd said before he died

Protesters chanted ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘I can’t breathe’ – some of the last words Floyd said before he died

The president had warned Thursday in a Twitter post that he would ‘assume control’ of the situation in the city and leveled blame at ‘weak’ Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey after protests descended into widespread carnage and left the city torched to the ground. 

On Thursday night, Minneapolis police officers had been forced to flee the third precinct when it was stormed and set alight when peaceful protests turned violent.

The president went on to blast people taking part in violent protests as ‘dishonoring George Floyd’s memory’. 

‘We support the right of peaceful protesters and we hear their pleas but what we are now seeing on the streets of our cities has nothing to do with justice or peace,’ he said. 

He continued: ‘We must not allow a small group of criminals and vandals to wreck our cities and lay waste to our communities.

‘We must defend the right of every citizen to live without violence, prejudice or fear.’ 

Speaking at Cape Canaveral after the successful launch of Elon Musk's Space X rocket, Trump blasted what he called the 'rioters, looters and anarchists' that have taken to the streets of at least 30 cities this week to demand justice over Floyd's death and warned that 'there will be no anarchy'

Speaking at Cape Canaveral after the successful launch of Elon Musk’s Space X rocket, Trump blasted what he called the ‘rioters, looters and anarchists’ that have taken to the streets of at least 30 cities this week to demand justice over Floyd’s death and warned that ‘there will be no anarchy’

Footage emerged Monday of white cop Derek Chauvin kneeling on the neck of black man Floyd for more than eight minutes until he passed out and later died, sparking outrage over police brutality and seeing protests escalate across the nation.

Trump described Floyd’s killing as a ‘grave tragedy’ at Cape Canaveral. 

‘The death of George Floyd on the streets of Minneapolis was a grave tragedy.

‘It should never have happened it has filled Americans all over the country with horror, anger and grief,’ he said.

‘Yesterday I spoke to George’s family and expressed the sorrow of our entire nation for their loss.’  

He added that the investigation into Floyd’s death is ongoing, hinting that charges could be leveled at the other three police officers involved. 

Trump's comments come as tensions started building between protesters and law enforcement in Washington DC for a second day Saturday

Trump’s comments come as tensions started building between protesters and law enforcement in Washington DC for a second day Saturday

Things turned ugly again Saturday, following the events of Friday which forced the White House into a temporary lockdown when some demonstrators tried to scale the walls of the grounds

Things turned ugly again Saturday, following the events of Friday which forced the White House into a temporary lockdown when some demonstrators tried to scale the walls of the grounds

Chauvin was arrested and charged with murder and manslaughter Friday but the other three still walk free. 

‘The police officers involved have been fired from their jobs, one of them has already been arrested and charged with murder,’ he said.

‘State and federal authorities are carrying out an investigation to see what further charges may be warranted including against sadly the other three.

‘In addition my administration has opened a civil rights investigation and I have asked the attorney general and the justice department to expedite it.’ 

Trump went on to point to the Space X launch as a sign of what America can achieve by coming ‘together’.

‘Moments ago we witnessed the launch of two great American astronauts into space. We were filled with the sense of pride and community in what brings us together as Americans,’ he said.  

Trump’s comments came just hours after he first pointed the finger at the radical left for the protests turning violent this week. 

‘It’s ANTIFA and the Radical Left. Don’t lay the blame on others!’ Trump said in a tweet on Saturday, referring to the militant far-left movement, short for ‘anti-fascist’, that is known for violence. 

His comments were echoed by Attorney General Bill Barr who also said ‘the voices of peaceful protest are being hijacked by radical elements.’ 

‘Groups of outside radicals and agitators are exploiting the situation to pursue their own separate and violent agenda,’ Barr said in an on-camera statement. ‘In many places it appears the violence is planned, organized and driven by anarchic and far-left extremist groups using antifa-like tactics.’

‘It is a federal crime to cross state lines or use interstate facilities to incite or participate in violent rioting and we will enforce those laws,’ he added, saying that the FBI, US Marshals, DEA, ATF and U.S. Attorney’s Offices would fully support local and state law enforcement in restoring order and cracking down on violence. 

While the president celebrated the successful space flight, back at the White House, protesters surrounded the seat of the US government for a second day and clashes broke out between the crowds and Secret Service agents.

Several demonstrators were seen standing on top of Secret Service vehicles and a security booth near the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.  

At least three Secret Service vehicles were seen with their windows smashed and with profanities scrawled on the side of them.

Protesters stood on the hoods and roofs and chanted ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘I can’t breathe’ – some of the last words Floyd said before he died.

Back at the White House, protesters have surrounded the seat of the US government for a second day and clashes have started breaking out between the crowds and Secret Service agents

Back at the White House, protesters have surrounded the seat of the US government for a second day and clashes have started breaking out between the crowds and Secret Service agents

Several demonstrators were seen standing on top of Secret Service vehicles and a security booth near the Eisenhower Executive Office Building

Several demonstrators were seen standing on top of Secret Service vehicles and a security booth near the Eisenhower Executive Office Building

The protests first reached the seat of the US government Friday night, with demonstrators marching to the White House, sending it into an emergency lockdown for a brief time. 

Secret Service officers stopped anyone entering the White House grounds, where Trump was in residence, after a demonstrator tried to scale the fence in Lafayette Park to get inside. 

The man was manhandled by Secret Service out of the park and taken into custody at the Treasury Annex.

Crowds followed law enforcement and the man to the jail and staged another protest outside – this one calling for a medic for the man after he was seen with blood pouring down his face, sparking renewed fears over police brutality and for the safety of a man held in police custody. 

Secret Service agents were also seen physically pushing demonstrators back after some pushed down metal railings while a police cruiser was seen burning in the road after it was torched by rioters.  

The lockdown was later lifted around 8:30p.m. and Trump broke his silence over the situation Saturday saying he ‘couldn’t have felt more safe’ and saying that any protesters who made it into the grounds would have been met with ‘the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons’. 

‘Great job last night at the White House by the U.S. @SecretService. They were not only totally professional, but very cool. I was inside, watched every move, and couldn’t have felt more safe. They let the ‘protesters’ scream & rant as much as they wanted, but whenever someone got too frisky or out of line, they would quickly come down on them, hard – didn’t know what hit them,’ he tweeted.

‘The front line was replaced with fresh agents, like magic. Big crowd, professionally organized, but nobody came close to breaching the fence. If they had they would. have been greeted with the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons, I have ever seen. 

‘That’s when people would have been really badly hurt, at least. Many Secret Service agents just waiting for action.’ 



Phil Vickery brings out a timely cookbook as those with diabetes more likely to die of coronavirus

Phil Vickery has had a productive lockdown. The television chef recently found an old unicycle in his garage. He first learned how to ride it 25 years ago and decided to take it up again at the grand old age of 59 ‘because I had nothing else to do,’ he says cheerily when we meet over Zoom. He holds the unicycle up to the screen like a small boy displaying his most prized possession. He is wearing a grey fleece and sporting an impressive sun tan – the result of tinkering about outside putting a new clutch in his Land Rover and changing all the brake pads.

Vickery is also still doing his day job, cooking from his garden in Buckinghamshire for ITV’s flagship daytime programme, This Morning. Occasionally he will be interrupted live on air by his farming neighbours Dave and Mike, who ask him to keep the noise down while, for example, he’s barbecuing a piece of chicken for the cameras.

‘I’ve got quite a few annoying neighbours,’ Vickery says, before indiscreetly going on to list them by name.

He’s about to publish his 14th book, Diabetes Meal Planner, which provides healthy, balanced recipes for anyone living with diabetes. All the recipes have been approved by Diabetes UK and written with the food scientist Bea Harling. Vickery is not diabetic himself, but enjoys the challenge of coming up with a series of precise, calorie-controlled recipes that still taste delicious.

People with diabetes are especially vulnerable to Covid-19 and, with the obesity crisis facing Britain, Vickery points out that his book can be used by anyone who wants – or needs – to eat more healthily.

Phil Vickery points out that his book can be used by anyone who wants – or needs – to eat more healthily

‘Essentially, it’s a health diet book. I was slightly worried when I saw McDonald’s re-open and there was a queue outside 50 cars long. No judgment, but I worry people might slip back into bad habits after lockdown.’

He says he fell into this kind of cooking by accident 20 years ago when he owned a Christmas pudding company and one day they couldn’t buy organic flour at the right price, so they opted for a gluten-free alternative and the pudding became an instant bestseller.

Vickery went on to write a gluten-free cookbook for coeliacs ‘and it sold more than 350,000 copies in 17 countries,’ he says proudly. Diabetes seemed the next logical step, and he published Phil Vickery’s Ultimate Diabetes Cookbook in 2017. It, too, became a bestseller and this is the follow-up.

There are some who accuse him of cashing in on other people’s medical conditions ‘but they must remember that, for 40 years, I’ve been cooking professionally… Suddenly self-proclaimed experts are publishing diet books and it makes me very, very angry. I don’t know how people write two books a year! I write one a year and that takes me an absolute age. They have no clue what they’re talking about.’ This time, he won’t name any names.

BUT he’s right – it is easy to forget Phil Vickery’s pedigree. On television, he’s a natural: handsome and enthusiastic, with a speedy, informative patter that tells you exactly how to knock up an easy kedgeree in 20 minutes. Yet he never wanted an on-screen career, and for years was the head chef at The Castle Hotel restaurant in Taunton, where he won a Michelin star.

‘Underneath it all, I laugh and joke, but I’m very serious about what I do.’

He hates the term ‘celebrity chef’ because ‘it conjures up all sorts of falseness. I’m not a “television chef”. I’m a chef who does a bit of telly’.

Vickery married presenter Fern Britton in 2000 and the couple announced they were separating earlier this year

Vickery married presenter Fern Britton in 2000 and the couple announced they were separating earlier this year

The only reason he agreed to appear on the BBC’s breezy afternoon show, Ready, Steady, Cook in 1996 was, he says, because they kept hassling him, and after saying no twice, he gave in ‘for commercial reasons… it filled the restaurant overnight’.

It was on Ready, Steady, Cook that he first met the presenter, Fern Britton. They married in 2000. Britton had five-year-old twin boys and a 21-month-old girl from a former marriage, and Vickery ‘brought them up as my own’. They later had a daughter, Winnie, who is now 19. The couple announced they were separating earlier this year.

I’ve been told not to broach this topic during the course of our conversation, but there’s a recipe in the book that mentions her (gazpacho, we are told, is Britton’s favourite soup) and when I ask him at the end of the interview if there’s anything he would like to say that I haven’t covered, it is the one moment his innate cheerfulness seems to flag. ‘I don’t talk about my wife,’ he says, looking down at the floor. ‘Just because it is what it is. And that’s it really.’

He is not much given to introspection. His approach to life is to ‘Dust yourself off and get on with it.’

When his colleague, Phillip Schofield, announced he was gay on This Morning in February, Vickery thought ‘good luck to him. He wants to be happy with his life. I don’t have any problem with that.’ Co-presenter Holly Willoughby is ‘a lovely girl. She never changes.’

For Vickery, life is for living rather than worrying about.

He recalls a conversation he once had in a radio studio with the philosopher Alain de Botton who told him: ‘You only need to worry about the things you can change.’

‘That’s it,’ Vickery says now. ‘So I just get on with it.’

It’s partly why, after being approached by producers to be a contestant on ITV’s I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!, he never made the cut.

Vickery is also still doing his day job, cooking from his garden in Buckinghamshire for ITV’s flagship daytime programme, This Morning

Vickery is also still doing his day job, cooking from his garden in Buckinghamshire for ITV’s flagship daytime programme, This Morning 

‘About five or six years ago, I interviewed for it,’ he says, and then he role-plays the interview:

Producers: ‘Do you cry a lot?’

Vickery: ‘No.’

Producers: ‘Would you be scared to jump out of a helicopter?’

Vickery: ‘That would be fine.’

Producers: ‘Do you have a phobia of snakes?’

Vickery: ‘You see that snake? I’ll catch that snake and I’ll eat it.

‘Then they called me up and said, “You’re a bit macho for us.” ’

I start to laugh. Vickery is a very funny raconteur. ‘No really! That was what he said. That’s a true story.’ When was the last time he cried?

‘I cried quite recently actually. Just a few tears. I was listening to a song from Toy Story 2.’

He spends the next ten minutes trying to find the song on his phone. He cried because the song reminds him of his daughter who is in lockdown in Cornwall and he misses her.

‘I’ve not seen her since Christmas. Yes, so there you go. A little tear.’ But then, he adds swiftly: ‘I manned up and got out of it.’

I’m hazarding a guess that he’s never been in therapy?

‘No!’ Vickery shouts, genuinely alarmed. ‘Why did you ask that? I’ll be really honest with you. I went through a horrific court case about 20 years ago and at one point I could have lost everything and I defended myself and I fought that for a year and I won. And that gave me such a massive confidence. It made me stand up for myself.’

He’s talking about being sacked from The Castle Hotel in 2000 after his then-boss alleged Vickery was spending too much time on television and not enough time in the kitchen.

Vickery took his employer to a tribunal which found in his favour. He was awarded damages and remained a shareholder.

‘My father has got little plaque in his shed and it says, “Blessed is he who expects nothing for he shall not be disappointed.” It’s really true.

‘I just get on with my life. Things come at you; you have to deal with it and move on.’

His parents, Robert, a former post office engineer, and Teresa, encouraged their three sons to be independent. Vickery has an older brother, Chris, a doctor in the Far East, and a younger brother, Mike, who works as a farrier ‘and I see him once every five years’.

The boys were brought up in Folkestone, Kent, and raised Catholic although as soon as he turned 18, Vickery stopped going to church. His parents were bemused by his desire to be a chef, but he’d always loved cooking, ever since the village hall caretaker gave him a copy of Warne’s Everyday Cookery (first published in 1872) left over from a jumble sale stall.

Vickery leaps up from his chair and fishes out the book from his shelves, bringing it closer to his computer screen so that I can see the annotations he made in the back, where he wrote his first ever recipe. ‘And there it is: Bread Pudding,’ he says proudly. ‘Can you see that?’

It was on Ready, Steady, Cook that he first met wife Fern Britton. Pictured on Culinary Genius TV series which Britton hosted in April 2017

It was on Ready, Steady, Cook that he first met wife Fern Britton. Pictured on Culinary Genius TV series which Britton hosted in April 2017

As much as he loved cooking, Vickery’s parents thought ‘it was not good enough for me [as a career]. Life chucks a lot of crap at you sometimes.’

Over the years, it is clear that Vickery has made a virtue of his self-sufficiency and I get the sense that he sees needing help as a weakness, as if admitting to vulnerability would be the start of some fatal unravelling.

‘My father has never given me one penny – apart from my 21st birthday when he gave me a hundred quid. I’ve never gone to him. I’ve never asked him. Just the way it is. And I’ve had times when I had nothing.

‘In my 20s, I sold my television to pay the MoT on my car. I never went to him. It wasn’t in my head to ask them. So we’ve been hugely independent. And once you do that a bit, it gives you a certain… I don’t know, an inner strength.’ How do his parents, both in their 80s, feel about his career now?

‘They quite like seeing me on telly and we went to The Ivy for dinner and they loved all that… My mum calls me to tell me off when I do something on telly she doesn’t agree with.’

When was the last time?

‘I had a tin of Carnation milk and I didn’t scrape out properly with a spatula. She calls me up and she just says: “Now Philip, I need to talk to you…” ’

Vickery wrote a gluten-free cookbook for coeliacs and it sold more than 350,000 copies in 17 countries

Vickery wrote a gluten-free cookbook for coeliacs and it sold more than 350,000 copies in 17 countries

What is Vickery like as a dad?

‘Ask my daughter.’

I press him on whether he feels he was more involved than his own parents were. ‘Oh God, yes. I wanted to be, and that was quite fortuitous because it coincided with me coming out of full-time cooking. So I was there [for the children].’

He’s turning 60 next year. Does he have any plans to mark the occasion, perhaps by getting a tattoo or piercing?

‘Oh God, no, no, no! I’m thinking of going to America eating from north of Kentucky down to Texas.’

Vickery looks younger than his years, and always has. He tells me he was asked for ID buying drinks in a pub well into his 20s.

‘I do moisturise every day,’ he says.

Does he wear SPF?

‘What’s that?’

It’s sunscreen.

‘Oh yes, absolutely. Yes I do. Because I’m outdoors a lot.’

All in all, he considers himself to have been ‘very lucky in life. I’ve had a fabulous career. Someone said to me the other day, “When you’re dead, what would you like people to say about you?” And I said, “All I want them to say is actually, he was all right.” That’s it.’

I tell him I promise to say that if I outlive him. He’s been a highly entertaining interviewee.

So yes, Phil Vickery is more than all right – and a surprisingly good unicyclist, too.

  • Diabetes Meal Planner, by Phil Vickery, will be published by Kyle Books on June 8, priced £22.



The 90 minutes when Hitler came closest to winning WWII

Eighty years ago this past week, the British and French armies were in the midst of the most calamitous defeat in their combined history. Churchill and Lord Halifax are pictured above

Eighty years ago this past week, the British and French armies were in the midst of the most calamitous defeat in their combined history. 

On May 14, 1940, Hitler’s panzer divisions broke through the French line at Sedan on the edge of the Ardennes forest and, within six days, had reached the Channel, trapping the northern French Armies and British Expeditionary Force. 

As exhausted British soldiers retreated towards Dunkirk, the War Cabinet in London, led by new Prime Minister Winston Churchill, began to contemplate the unthinkable: a peace deal with Hitler.

Strange as it may seem today, Churchill’s position, in the summer of 1940, was far from secure. At the time the British Expeditionary Force began its march to the coast, Churchill had been PM for only two weeks. 

Most Conservative MPs had wanted the former appeaser, Lord Halifax, to succeed Neville Chamberlain as Prime Minister and there was a widespread view within Westminster that Churchill was a dangerous adventurer.

When Chamberlain entered the House of Commons the day after his fall he received a far greater ovation than Churchill and, as the Chairman of the Conservative backbench 1922 Committee explained to the Chamberlain supporter Rab Butler on May 13, three-quarters of Tory MPs were ‘ready to put Chamberlain back’.

This, then, was the context in which the War Cabinet discussed the dramatic possibility of exploring peace terms with Nazi Germany. The man urging this course was Churchill’s rival for the premiership, Foreign Secretary, Lord Halifax. 

Halifax was no traitor. Although he had been one of the leading appeasers in the years before the war, the 1938 crisis over Czechoslovakia had convinced him, belatedly, of the futility of trying to appease Adolf Hitler.

The collapse of France, however, changed everything. ‘We have to face the fact,’ Halifax told the War Cabinet on May 26, ‘that it is not so much now a question of imposing a complete defeat upon Germany’ as protecting the independence of Britain and her Empire. 

Was Churchill, then, prepared to explore peace terms using the Italian dictator Mussolini as intermediary?

During the previous day only 7,699 troops had been evacuated from the beaches (a tiny fraction of those who were waiting to be rescued) and it was more than possible they were on the verge of witnessing ‘the greatest British military defeat for many centuries’. The beach of Dunkirk is pictured above after the evacuation

During the previous day only 7,699 troops had been evacuated from the beaches (a tiny fraction of those who were waiting to be rescued) and it was more than possible they were on the verge of witnessing ‘the greatest British military defeat for many centuries’. The beach of Dunkirk is pictured above after the evacuation

Unlike his caricatured portrayal in that historical travesty of a film, Darkest Hour, Churchill did not lose his temper. Aware that a breach with his Foreign Secretary and chief rival had the capacity to destroy his fledgling government, he gave a measured and deliberately ambiguous response. 

It was most unlikely, he said, that Hitler would offer terms that would prove acceptable but, in theory, if Britain could get out of this ‘jam’ by surrendering parts of her African and Mediterranean Empire to the Axis then he would ‘jump at it’.

The only safe course, however, ‘was to convince Hitler that he could not beat us’. Later that evening, the order for the commencement of Operation Dynamo – the evacuation of the BEF from France – was given.

With Calais surrounded and the German spearheads only five miles from Dunkirk, the War Cabinet met the following day – Monday, May 27 – at 4.30pm. The meeting only lasted an hour and a half but was probably the most important 90 minutes of the war – certainly the closest Hitler came to winning it.

Halifax re-presented his plan for exploring peace terms via Mussolini. Churchill expressed scepticism but held his fire. The Secretary of State for Air, Sir Archibald Sinclair, however, argued that an approach to the Italians would be not merely hopeless but dangerous. 

The two Labour Ministers, Clement Attlee and Arthur Greenwood, strongly agreed. ‘If it got out that we had sued for terms at the cost of ceding British territory, the consequences would be terrible,’ argued Greenwood. 

Halifax re-presented his plan for exploring peace terms via Mussolini. Churchill expressed scepticism but held his fire. The Secretary of State for Air, Sir Archibald Sinclair, however, argued that an approach to the Italians would be not merely hopeless but dangerous

Halifax re-presented his plan for exploring peace terms via Mussolini. Churchill expressed scepticism but held his fire. The Secretary of State for Air, Sir Archibald Sinclair, however, argued that an approach to the Italians would be not merely hopeless but dangerous

‘It would be heading for disaster’ to go any further down this route. With this bolstering of support, Churchill declared his unambiguous opposition to the proposal. The mere exploration of peace talks, he explained, ‘would ruin the fighting integrity in this country’.

There was not the remotest possibility Hitler would offer acceptable terms and, when the Germans revealed the British had sued for peace, the determination of the British people to continue the struggle would evaporate. 

British prestige, it was true, was currently very low. But the only way to get it back was to show the world ‘that the Germans had not beaten us’. 

No, they should avoid being ‘dragged down the slippery slope with France’ and continue the struggle, if necessary alone.

Halifax, who described Churchill’s speech ‘as the most frightful rot’ in his diary, then threatened to resign. This was the tipping point.

Churchill had been Prime Minister for 17 days and the resignation of his Foreign Secretary and favoured candidate for his post would almost certainly bring down his Government. 

Faced with such danger, Churchill did not shout and storm but resorted to charm. He spoke to Halifax in private in the Downing Street garden – the site of Dominic Cummings’s recent press conference – and was ‘full of apologies and affection’.

Although not able to convert the Foreign Secretary to his point of view, Churchill managed to dissuade him from taking a step which would plunge Britain into a political crisis at the same time as her Army in France was facing the prospect of annihilation.

Back in the Foreign Office, the Permanent Under Secretary, Sir Alexander Cadogan, urged Halifax not ‘to do anything silly under the stress’. Yet Halifax returned to the charge at the War Cabinet the following day – Tuesday, May 28 – arguing that Britain might get ‘better terms before France went out of the war and our aircraft factories were being bombed’.

Churchill again dissented but the crucial contribution came from Chamberlain. At this critical moment, the man who had made the cataclysmic mistake of trusting Hitler in 1938, announced that he agreed with Churchill. 

There was no doubt that continuing the fight was a serious risk, he said. But the alternative – not fighting – also ‘involved a serious gamble’. 

The mere exploration of peace talks, he explained, ‘would ruin the fighting integrity in this country’. There was not the remotest possibility Hitler would offer acceptable terms and, when the Germans revealed the British had sued for peace, the determination of the British people to continue the struggle would evaporate. British prestige, it was true, was currently very low

The mere exploration of peace talks, he explained, ‘would ruin the fighting integrity in this country’. There was not the remotest possibility Hitler would offer acceptable terms and, when the Germans revealed the British had sued for peace, the determination of the British people to continue the struggle would evaporate. British prestige, it was true, was currently very low

He, therefore, believed that ‘it was no good making an approach [to Mussolini] on the lines proposed.’ It was a vital intervention, and completely contrary to the version most recently promoted by Hollywood.

Churchill now moved to checkmate Halifax. He asked the War Cabinet to reconvene at 7pm, after he had met with the wider Cabinet, so far excluded from these discussions. 

When the 25 Ministers convened in the Prime Minister’s room in the House of Commons that afternoon, Churchill began by giving them an unvarnished account of the situation at Dunkirk.

During the previous day only 7,699 troops had been evacuated from the beaches (a tiny fraction of those who were waiting to be rescued) and it was more than possible they were on the verge of witnessing ‘the greatest British military defeat for many centuries’.

In these circumstances, he confessed he had wondered whether it was part of his duty as Prime Minister to consider entering into negotiations with ‘That Man’. But the answer was no. It was delusional, he argued, to believe Britain would get better terms from Hitler now, than if she carried on and fought it out.

The Germans, he said, would demand the Royal Navy and significant chunks of the Empire. Britain would become a ‘slave state’ under Fascist leader Oswald Mosley or some other Nazi puppet.

Furthermore, Britain had considerable reserves and strategic advantages. Only a few days earlier, the Chiefs of Staff had produced a report (euphemistically entitled British Strategy In A Certain Eventuality, ie the collapse of France), which argued Britain could hope to survive the war, alone, providing her Navy and Air Force remained intact to repel a German invasion.

Therefore, Churchill concluded in the most simple yet dramatic terms: ‘We shall go on and we shall fight it out, here or elsewhere and if this long island story is to end at last, let it end only when each of us lies choking in his own blood.’

As the Labour MP and Minister for Economic Warfare, Hugh Dalton, recorded ‘there was not even the faintest flicker of dissent’ and, when the meeting was over, there were cheers and much slapping of the Prime Ministerial back.

Later, when Churchill recounted the meeting to the reconvened War Cabinet, he stated that he could not remember a gathering of so many senior politicians having expressed themselves so emphatically. 

None had flinched when confronted with the danger that lay ahead and, on the contrary, there was universal rejoicing when he told them there was no chance of giving up the struggle.

Most Conservative MPs had wanted the former appeaser, Lord Halifax, to succeed Neville Chamberlain as Prime Minister and there was a widespread view within Westminster that Churchill was a dangerous adventurer

Most Conservative MPs had wanted the former appeaser, Lord Halifax, to succeed Neville Chamberlain as Prime Minister and there was a widespread view within Westminster that Churchill was a dangerous adventurer

Outmanoeuvred, Halifax was forced to accept defeat. He raised the French desire for an appeal to President Roosevelt but when Churchill vetoed this, arguing that a ‘bold stand’ would command the respect of the United States but a ‘grovelling appeal would have the worst possible effect’, he did not demur. Churchill had won.

The Second World War had many decisive moments: the invasion of the Soviet Union by Hitler’s armies in June 1941; the halting of the German offensive before the gates of Moscow six months later; the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the entry of the United States into the war; Stalingrad; D-Day, to name only the most important.

Yet, I agree with the late historian John Lukas that the debates in the War Cabinet between May 26 and 28, 1940, were the real ‘hinge of fate’.

As we all know, Britain did not and could not win the war single-handed. Yet, in 1940, she was the only country capable of losing it. Had Churchill faltered, Hitler would have been victorious. Europe would have fallen entirely under the shadow of the swastika and the possibility of salvation by the US would have disappeared.

Even if Hitler had persisted with what proved his suicidal bid to conquer the Soviet Union, then history, under these circumstances, could have been different.

Without the belligerency of Great Britain – fighting in North Africa and at sea, restricting supplies and bombing German cities – Germany would have been exponentially stronger. The Russians would have received none of the tanks, aeroplanes and raw materials supplied by Britain and the US and there would have been no chance of a second front in Western Europe.

It is for these reasons we owe such a debt to Churchill. He had been wrong about a range of issues before 1940 and was not always sound in his judgment thereafter. But when European civilisation teetered on the brink of destruction, he showed courage, perspicacity, tact and leadership.

It is to the world’s enduring gratitude that Britain had such a Prime Minister at a such a time.

Tim Bouverie’s Appeasing Hitler: Chamberlain, Churchill And The Road To War is out now in paperback.