Category Archives: Boris Johnson

Cato-tonic economic sabotage

There are different ways to lose one’s head.

Shortly after 9/11 the Washington Post published a piece by Richard W. Rahn of the Cato Institute.

Sorry: did that sets off every fruitcake-warning klaxon? Cato describes itself as:

dedicated to the principles of individual liberty, limited government, free markets and peace. 

One of its main thrusts is to brief the Supreme Court on its view of what the Founding Fathers would have made of any modern dilemma. The Cato Institute doesn’t blush too deeply when identified as “libertarian” (which worries me none too much), but is a renaming of the erstwhile Charles Koch Foundation, which ought to re-charge and re-energise all those klaxons.

Joseph_Addison_by_Sir_Godfrey_Kneller,_Bt_cleanedMore positively, by the name-change the Foundation/Institute was wrapping itself in the toga of Joseph Addison, the supreme Whig essayist of the early eighteenth century.

When I was a student, working towards the Irish Department of Education Leaving Certificate, the essays of Addison, and his mate Richard Steele, were prescribed to us as models for comment, criticism and imitation. That was doubtless derived from the opinion of Doctor Samuel Johnson:

Whoever wishes to attain an English style, familiar but not coarse, and elegant but not ostentatious, must give his days and nights to the study of Addison.

There’s the “Kit-Kat” portrait of the man himself, by Godfrey Kneller, to the right here.

Addison’s five-act drama, eponymously on Cato the Younger, was the West End hit of 1713 — and went on to even greater success and longer-lasting fame in the American Colonies. So much so, it became a fave of George Washington, who had it performed for the delectation of his troops at Valley Forge, and serially cited it in his orations.

To the main point, Redfellow!

Much of Kahn’s argument could flow as easily from the Taxpayers’ Alliance (which are a styrofoam assemblage, merely right-wing fellow-travellers, without the intellect or clout of the Cato Institute). Let me focus, though, on Kahn’s punchline for that 2011 essay. It was:

Economic saboteurs can only succeed when the public is kept ignorant of their actions by a compliant press and timid foes. It is important that good people be as steadfast in defeating the economic saboteurs as they are with the terrorists.

The economic saboteurs of #Brexit were (and are) the ignoramuses of the Out! campaign who propagated arrant nonsense and deliberate untruths — none more grotesque than the “£50 million a week for the NHS”. That was so blatantly a lie its sponsors were denying it even as the votes were being counted. Beyond the BoJos, the Goves, the Farridges (English: rectè), it took the self-interests of the press lords and lords-in-waiting to perpetrate a stupendous, xenophobic fraud on the general populace. And they all got away with it.

By the way — no: I’m not suggesting the other side were without sin. However, the Remainers were singularly “timid” (Kahn’s word) in answering the excesses lobbed across by the Outers. Even the BBC, in the misguided pursuit of “balance” were reticent in calling the lies for what they objectively were — and are. To describe the Leader of the Opposition as “supine” is a slur on any horizontal human.

In the 1950s, East Germany (then under the jackboot of another ideological cadre) introduced the crime of “economic sabotage”, with the ultimate capital punishment of beheading. Just saying.

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Filed under Boris Johnson, Britain, economy, EU referendum, High School, History, Literature, Tories., Washington Post

There are times …

… when the excesses of the Murdoch press are so grotesque, they defy imagination.

Today’s very-shady Sun has this, from the Honourable Toby Young [1]:

If the new Prime Minister is serious about taking us out of the EU, we need a Foreign ­Secretary who’s upbeat about Britain’s post-Brexit future, not another doom-monger. [2]

It will be the job of Britain’s 150 ambassadors to sell this new vision of the UK to the rest of the world, so it makes sense they should be led by someone who believes in it. [3]

Boris is a pretty good salesman in his own right. As Mayor of London, his main job was to attract business and investment to our capital — and the transformation of the city’s skyline [4] is testament to how effective he was. If he can do the same for UK PLC, Britain’s depressed northern cities will be lit up like Las Vegas. [5]

[1] Toby Daniel Moorsom Young is the son of Baron Young of Darlington, major contributor to the 1945 Labour Manifesto, and a distinguished sociologist. The Moorsom is for his mother, Sasha, who kept the BBC Third Programme and elsewhere culturally sound, and wrote a couple of decent books herself. As such, the offspring is entitled to be an “Hon”.

This fruit has fallen far, far from the Muswell Hill tree.

[2] Up to a distant point, Lord Copper.

It obviously hasn’t dawned on the Honourable Toby that Theresa May, in her wisdom, has made quite sure BoJo will have little to contribute on #Brexit. Were he even considering so doing, he would collide forcibly with the adamantine David Davis, Secretary of State for #Brexit. That would be an event where it would be would be worth having the popcorn franchise. Essential differences are that Davis does his homework, knows his stuff and is licensed to kill.

[3] Even further from the point, Lord Tinplate.

Theresa May has delegated International Trade to Liam Fox, the one Tory outstanding for being more devious, more self-seeking, more duplicitous, more venomous than BoJo. If Davis leaves a bloody BoJo corpse at the Cabinet table, Fox can be guaranteed to boot it on the way out.

[4] Ah, yes.

Generations yet unborn will hail BoJo for his architectural significance. He did more for the London skyline than the Luftwaffe. His greatest hit [sic] ought to be the car-killing 20 Fenchurch Street, a.k.a. the Walkie-Talkie.

[5] Either the Honourable Toby has smuggled an irony past the Sun sub-editors, or this has to be further proof of the man’s excellence in crassness.

The architect of Carbuncle-of-the-Year is Rafael Viñoly. A previous “commission” (read that as you please) was the Vdara Hotel and Spa in Las Vegas. This was Viñoly‘s previous attempt to build a death-ray. The curved frontage, as at Fenchurch Street, focuses the sun, with the result that sun-bathers can have their hair scorched and their loungers melted.

 

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Filed under Boris Johnson, London, Murdoch, Muswell Hill, Tories.

A tradition of national ineptitude

The tradition of Lord North (who lost British North America), Neville Chamberlain (who came close to losing the Second World War before it had really got started) and Anthony Eden (who lost out over Suez) is a dishonourable one.

Just when I assume things cannot get worse, Theresa May springs a new foreign calamity on us:

BoJo

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Filed under Boris Johnson, Britain, Conservative Party policy., History, politics, Tories.

Pip, Squeak and Wilfred

Once-upon-a-time, back in the days when Ted Heath ruled the land, British Rail submitted (and was granted) a patent for a flying saucer:

Saucer

Now the job of being Tottenham Court Road jester falls to Transport for London.

We should count TfL’s greatest hits, especially those under the present part-time Mayor of London:

  • 808 Boris Boggler buses, which parboil the occupants, are unreliable and — arguably — unsafe, don’t quite work on hybrid power train, and — but naturally — are “iconic”. Lest we forget, the cost was originally budgeted at a quarter of a million per bus, but has ballooned to over £350,000. As for the assured export and sell-on deals, say no more …
  • the Danglewire across the Thames, which goes from nowhere to nowhere, but has a scenic view of the scrapyards below: this is billed (with everything BoJo there has to be a bill) as an “airline”;
  • the Boris bike scheme, which costs Londoners a small fortune, and provides late-night thrills-and-spills for drunken stock-jobbers — this was going to be a “no-cost” operation, which now costs £1,400 per year, per bike;
  • the pretentious and pointless, but projected Garden Bridge;
  • Borisport-on-mudflat, the Grand Project for a mega-airport in the Thames, which cost £200 million;
  • a rack-rented fares policy;
  • the worst labour disputes on record (14 million Google “hits”), largely because the Mayor can’t be arsed to talk to his employees;
  • a shut-down of ticket booths, at a moment when buses went cash-free …

What’s to be done?

Nothing else for it! Send for the PR-team! And, lo!

We are searching for London’s most iconic transport designs and designers, and will be asking you to vote for your favourite from 3 August. 

These images are submissions from TfL staff, but if you think we have missed anything, please let us know your Design Icon by emailing tbd@tfl.gov.uk.

For more information on Transported by Design visit www.tfl.gov.uk/transportedbydesign

Use the hashtags #DesignIcons and #TransportedbyDesign to participate on Facebook and Twitter.

With the history, pre-Boris, of London Transport there has to be a wealth of good stuff in such a list. It doesn’t take much presience to expect the “winner” would be one of:

  • Harry Beck’s map (which has gone round the world);

Harry Beck's

  • the Johnson type-face;

Johnston_2

or

  • (just to annoy Boris) the original Routemaster.
RM1955

RM1955

Towards the end of that “suggested” list of LT “icons”, we find Wilfred the Bunny:

Wilfred the Bunny

Wilfred was, it seems, intended — or, at least, suggested for the bonnets of LT’s “Green Line” country buses. ‘Elf’n’Safety would today ban  such an ornament, but we speak of an age when form followed function, but also could be fun. Consider, in the same vein, the coins of the Irish Free State:

1928proofseta

To think, Ireland gave up such elegant simplicity for the €.

I’m assuming that the bunny had to be “Wilfred” from  the Daily Mirror comic strip, of Pip (the dog and father figure), Squeak (a penguin and mother) and the child (Wilfred, the long-eared rabbit), who all lived at the home of “Uncle Dick”, waited on by Angeline, the house-maid, on — significantly for the Green Line — the London periphery.

“Pip, Squeak and Wilfred” had another significance for the men of that post-WW1 era: they were the nicknames of the campaign medals dished out with demobilisation:

PSW

So, I’m voting for Wilfred.

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Filed under advertising., Boris Johnson, Britain, History, Ireland, London, travel

Fissiparous revisited

Well, if was OK for Larkin and Toads, why not here?

Give me your arm, old toad;
Help me down Cemetery Road.

After this General Election, were the Tories to “win” (or, as happened in 2010, were the Cabinet Secretary to spatchcock them a “win”), the Big Event would not longer be the “deficit”. It would be “Europe”.

In our local politics we are urged to remember that Farage’s Kippers (4.3% of the vote, 38 seats) — not Manfred Weber’s EDD (29.4% of the vote, 221 seats) — “won” the 2014 European Parliamentary Elections. Clearly, as in 1938, things European are still “a quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing”.

Wars and rumours of wars

Yet, assuming that Tory Election “win”, “Europe” is the coming crisis —”Europe” being a shorthand for the fissiparous state of the Tory Party. And, yes (since you didn’t ask), I have today been reading Ian Traynor in The Guardian:

For more than two years, Cameron has regularly demanded changes to the EU, requested that concessions be made so he can repatriate powers from Brussels, win the referendum and keep the UK in. But he has yet to tell the other 27 heads of government what he wants.

“We need more concrete British demands,” Donald Tusk, the president of the European council and former Polish prime minister, told the Guardian three weeks ago. Tusk organises and chairs EU summits and will have a key mediation role over the British issue, which he describes as one of his top three dossiers. He said he wanted to help solve the British problem in a “limited and rational way”, but in effect ruled out a renegotiation of the Lisbon treaty to accommodate the British.

Reopening the treaty has long been Cameron’s main demand, although he has also been told authoritatively that it will not happen. “No one thinks he’s credible,” said Charles Grant, director of the Centre for European Reform thinktank. “Cameron wants to have his cake and eat it.”

The whole of that piece is a recognition that, for Cameron and the Tories, “Europe” is code for the unbridgeable divide which John Major suffered with his “bastards”. Then it was the Maastricht rebels. The headbanger tendency has been self-denying and quiet in recent months, but, after 7th May, will be liberated and reinvigorated. It could be Eurosceptic two-thirds of the parliamentary Tory benches. Exactly a year ago Matthew d’Ancona had this:

In moments of exasperation, the PM has been heard to say that he would rather form another Coalition after the next election than win a small majority and, in practice, govern in a daily modified coalition with [Peter] Bone and his gang of hardcore Eurosceptic backbenchers (“Bonie’s Cronies”, as I have heard them described). 

In any case, if Cameron wins with a majority of any sort, or negotiates a second coalition that includes the fulfilment of his pledge to hold a referendum before the end of 2017, the Conservative Party’s energies will be utterly absorbed by Europe, as never before, for up to 18 months.

Conservatives and “National Conservatives”?

When I was observing those divisive amoeba, the North Norfolk MP was Eddie Gooch. At each General Election he had a single opponent, a “National Liberal”. This strange sub-species of Tories now needs explanation: since I can’t be bothered, try wikipedia. They were a lingering residue of the 1931 split in the Liberal Party. There was also a “National Labour” party (those who went with Ramsay MacDonald into the 1931 coalition) until after the 1945 Election.

The question has to be: would a commitment to (or against) #Brexit be as devastating to Tory “unity” as was 1931 to the other two parties? Cameron, as a prisoner of the rampant Eurosceptic right, the faction howled on by the Murdoch scandal-sheets, would likely lead to some constituency associations so alienated they resigned, or were suspended. If Cameron were able to stave off the “Better off out” loopies, the obvious beneficiary would be the Farageistes.

On the other hand, none of these fissiparous tendencies are neutered by a Tory defeat in this General Election. Cameron would be out, gone, the designated fall-guy. Inflexible rigour would be the order the day. [Isn’t it odd that “ideology”, however warped and homeopathically diluted, is now the norm on the right?]

TheScapegoat

If all we hear about the selection of Tory parliamentary candidates is anywhere near the reality, the next leader will be further right — a hardliner, such as Liam Fox (always sniffing round the parliamentary henhouse) or Theresa May, or a trimmer, such as Boris Johnson (the original arse on which everything has sat except a man).

Watch this dividing space: it could be fun.

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Filed under Boris Johnson, Britain, broken society, EU referendum, Europe, Guardian, History, Murdoch, Norfolk, politics, Tories.

Stroke, counterstroke, spoke, wheel

Yep: sure enough! Here it comes!

UnknownThe “Stop BoJo” wagon, as predicted, is beginning to roll. Quick chorus of Three Wheels on my Wagon (Burt Bacharach for the New Christy Minstrels, 1961 — if my memory serves). Mayor Johnson will need to heed:

Them Cherokees are after me
Flaming spears
Burn my ears
But I’m singing a happy song!

As I see it, we can count:

Wheel One:

Guardian

The Guardian has that one.

It’s the old story of adversarial politics: your opponents are over there; you enemies are behind you.

All the evidence is the Tory ship is not a happy one. It’s not just the long-festering EU-thingy (and BoJo has swung both ways on that), it’s pent-up ambition and resentment:

  • Cameron has overlooked talent — every Tory back-bencher feels she/he has a need for, deserves one of those red boxes.
  • Dammit! Those unworthy LibDems have their share of that elusive prize.
  • Cameron, despite keeping his enemies close, has kept his friends closer. He has discarded a few too many adept political dagger-men. They will not forgive and forget.

Consequently there are two schools of thought on BoJo (who, for all his numerous faults — to which we come in a moment — is an operator):

  1. The Tories are likely to lose in 2015, That will necessitate a change of leader. That opens opportunities for new talent to be discovered, old talent to be refurnished. Let’s get on board early!
  2. We have all the talent we need, thank you. Even if we do lose in 2015, we don’t need more flashy competition in the next talent-show.

Among the second group are the Friends of George, and it is the Osborne faction whom we need to watch. They are not Friends of BoJo.

Wheel Two:

MailThe Daily Mail, of course.

First thing to consider in that case: the Daily Mail is no convinced fan of Cameron.

Then again, are the constituencies really Stompin’ at the Savoy to have BoJo as their prospective parliamentary candidate? The blue-rinse ladies may coo over him … then nudge each other in the ribs and recall how he treated poor Petsy. Among others. Constituency chairmen may harbour ambitions of their own, or for someone local, or who is mouldable in the right image: Johnson doesn’t fit anyone’s mould. Nor does Johnson have any reputation for being “a good constituency MP”. His attendance at local functions was notoriously erratic. Max Hastings, also in the Mail, nails a lot of the rest:

… he is also capable of creating mayhem. He is an egomaniac with a strand of recklessness, a loose cannon capable of holing his own side’s ship. He was, don’t forget, a member of that silly Oxford Bullingdon Club group with Cameron and George Osborne.

John Dryden, back in 1681, described the 1st Earl of Shaftsbury in similar terms:

A daring pilot in extremity,
Pleased with the danger, when the waves went high,
He sought the storms; but, for a calm unfit,
Would steer too nigh the sands to boast his wit.
Great wits are sure to madness near allied,
And thin partitions do their bounds divide…

Being BoJo’s Constituency Committee, and therefore licensed keeper, would never be an easy job. Yes, the next 2015 Election will involve a huge media attention … and then? And there’d always be the fear of a late-Saturday evening telephone call, and a reptile for one of the sensational Sundays looking for an instant quote on the latest doing. Oh, and Lock Up Your Daughters.

Wheel Three:

TimesThe simple matter of orthodoxy.

Truth to tell, Tory orthodoxy is Euroscepticism, even to the ultra utterance. Let’s go to the Times next (as right):

Last night Eurosceptics said they saw Mr Johnson’s decision as a boost to their campaign to take Britain out of the EU. His announcement of a return to the Commons came after a speech in which he said that Britain should not be afraid of life outside the EU.

Yet, Johnson carefully tailors his remarks to his audience. What he says about leaving the EU is always balanced with City-friendly qualifications about “reform” of the EU. Try that recent Bloomberg speech:

… for 15 years after the fall of the wall, it was the EU that served as a beacon and an objective for Poland and other former communist countries. It was the EU’s insistence on market reforms that has transformed those economies, and helped provide the British speedway fan with the friendly cafes and prompt service, ice cream and all the stuff that you would not have expected under communism.

And as we, this week, mark a century since the outbreak of the First World War, we should reflect that for 70 or almost 70, of those 100 years, there has now been peace in western Europe, probably the longest uninterrupted absence of war since the days of the Antonine emperors; and of course there are probably all sorts of reasons for that peace

Then come the Eurosceptic “buts”, starting with  “economic underperformance” and “collapse of political trust”. Both those sound capable of remedy. That’s the third section of his speech, pointedly sub-headed The solution: reform and referendum. For all the eurosceptic spin, most of this speech could have been delivered (absenting the mock-intellectual stuff about Roman history) by a David Cameron acolyte.

So, the problem with BoJo’s third wheel is one never knows which way he will spin it.

The spare wheel

Johnson comes with so much excess baggage. He is a foul-mouthed, adulterous, lying, racist bigot. Note that I have hot-linked each of those terms.

When Michael Howard (who, remember, went along with those dog-whistle Tory posters in 2005) sacked Johnson from his Front Bench, it wasn’t for the adultery:

Howard said the sacking was because Johnson had lied over the affair. It had nothing to do with morality.

That remains one of my favourite definitions of Tory family values.

Finally, let’s consider Johnson as a parliamentary candidate for Uxbridge, which seems to be a prime choice:

He is now expected to seek the safe seat of Uxbridge & South Ruislip where the Tory MP, Sir John Randall, who has a majority of 11,000, has announced that he will not run again.

However, local sources said that huge interest in contesting the seat meant that Mr Johnson faced a race against time if he hoped to secure it. Tory HQ is expecting as many as 100 applicants, according to insiders, meaning that Mr Johnson needed to make his intentions known very soon.

A source said: “Things have moved on quickly. The selection process is now set in motion. We’re gearing up for it and the association will make a final choice on September 12. So if Boris wishes to apply for the constituency, he’s got to get his intentions known to central office pretty quick. If he wants to throw his hat in the ring, he’ll have to do it over the next week or so.”

Now, let’s wait for Johnson to backtrack on what he has committed to with HS2, Heathrow, and urban motorways — for none of his previous stands would sell in Uxbridge. That’s baggage not wanted on voyage.

All of which will be oozing into the Press through though “Friends of George”.

A Favourite has no friend

Bottom line — if :

Boris Johnson is the early favourite among grassroots Tories to succeed David Cameron as leader, according to a poll conducted by Conservativehome.

That may be historical (2012) but Paul Goodman and ConHome are still, today, in the same groove:

If Cameron is Prime Minister after next May, Boris can serve in Cabinet when his mayoral term ends.  And if he isn’t, Boris can contest the consequent leadership election, as he has every right to do.   After all, he repeatedly comes in first or second in this site’s polls among Party members of future leaders.

Johnson should remember the fate of Thomas Gray’s Selima, Drown’d in a Tub of Gold Fishes, complete with those Classical allusions:

Eight times emerging from the flood
She mewed to every watery god,
   Some speedy aid to send.
No dolphin came, no Nereid stirred;
Nor cruel Tom, nor Susan heard;
   A Favourite has no friend!
From hence, ye beauties, undeceived,
Know, one false step is ne’er retrieved,
   And be with caution bold.
Not all that tempts your wandering eyes
And heedless hearts, is lawful prize;
   Nor all that glisters, gold.

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Filed under Boris Johnson, ConHome, Conservative family values, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, Evening Standard, Guardian, London, politics, Times, Uncategorized

Warsi, Cameron and realities

A minor Tory name resigns her non-ministerial position (Whip in the un-Whippable Lords?). No earthquake. This is the week of the old August Bank Holiday: the silliest point in the silly season. Therefore Barnoness Warsi, for all her unworthiness, gets her headlines.

The Spectator had to have a holding piece while the Great BoJo Revelation came through — and the evidence suggests they had prior warning to get that cover ready for this week’s edition:

BuWIJeRIIAERyrj.jpg-large

Presumably, that diminutive figure under BoJo’s approaching arse is “Gids” Osborne, the heir presumptive. From whom (or from those ever-present “sources close to the Chancellor”) we shall soon be hearing more. It”ll be worth watching if Johnson’s parachuting into the safest of seats is trouble-free. My guess is not: he has too many undeclared enemies, and too many fair-weather friends.

In patient expectation of the new Caesar coming in triumph over Pompey’s blood, the holding job on the Spectator blog’s was Rod Liddle’s: Baroness Warsi – commendable but stunningly wrong.

I couldn’t give a toss whether Baroness Warsi is right (well, most of her views are), wrong, or “stunningly” so. What matters more is whether David Cameron is.

Let’s backtrack to 21st July and Hansard on the Ukraine (Flight MH17) and Gaza exchange.

I thought at the time that David Cameron’s line was inadequate, even one-sided. I wondered how long could this official line be held:

What is happening in Gaza is absolutely heartbreaking. We have to be clear, though, about how this could most quickly be brought to an end: that is for Hamas to stop the rocket attacks on Israel. If they stop those, all the other things that we need—the end of the Israeli operation, and the ceasefire—would be in place.

It didn’t ring true. It wasn’t the authentic bell metal.

Still, Cameron repeated that at least six times in answering questions. Each iteration suffered serial elision until the essential message became:

… we believe in Israel’s right to defend itself, we believe that it needs to exercise restraint, to avoid civilian casualties and to find ways of bringing this to a close. But the best way to bring this to a close is the fastest way, and that is for the rocket attacks to stop.

I didn’t see then, and don’t see now that the IDF’s actions are entirely limited to “defending itself”. The Gazan death toll alone, now approaching 2,000, underlines that is is a campaign of aggression, not “defence”.

If I read Netanyahu’s statements correctly, that isn’t his position either:

What is about to end is the IDF’s treatment of the tunnels, but this operation will end only when quiet and security are restored for Israeli citizens for a prolonged period… We don’t have any intention of hurting the residents of Gaza. It’s Hamas who is actually hurting them by preventing humanitarian aid. I think the international community needs to condemn Hamas. [That’s lifted from Monday’s WSJ].

To that extent, Lady Warsi has a valid point — and the Prime Minister has mislaid any he had.

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Filed under Boris Johnson, Conservative family values, David Cameron, politics, The Spectator, Tories.