Category Archives: Theresa May

Going critical

The world’s first self-sustaining nuclear reaction took place in the west stands, Old Stagg Field, of the University of Chicago on 2nd December 1942. Which means that I was born in the atomic age. Just about.

I blanch at Enrico Fermi’s confidence in his own expertise, that one of the most (ahem!) explosive experiments in all science was undertaken alongside East 55th Street.

Coitus interruptus

Translate that to national economics, and today an experiment of comparable magnitude is happening next to Westminster Bridge. The (erstwhile) “Great Repeal Bill”, then down-rated to mere “Repeal Bill”, has now slithered into the light of parliamentary day as the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill.

The Mayo Clinic reckons the withdrawal method of “contraception” has, in practice, a failure rate of 22%.

It’s hard, ain’t it hard?

Of course, today is only the First Reading, so little more than a nod-and-a-wink.

The real event will be the Second reading; and there we can expect the Labour Opposition to lay amendments, and vote against any substantive motion. With a nominal majority of a bare dozen (and that’s only achieved with the mercenary aid of the DUP), the work of the government whips will be severely taxing. This is where the business of minority government becomes progressively more onerous. All the Opposition has to do is keep the powder dry, and a cohort floating in and around the Commons chamber, and every single Tory (and paid DUPper) has to available for instant voting service.

The nearest to living through the dying months of the Callaghan Government is James Graham’s drama This House. I saw that in its original at the Cottesloe Theatre, so that must have been in the late autumn of 2012. Philip Glenister (yes, DCI Gene Hunt of Life on Mars) humanised the (more-brutish-in-real-life) Labour Whip, Bob Mellish. The best rôle was Charles Edwards as the Tory Whip (and later Speaker of the Commons) Jack Weatherill. The play was revived in the West End over the past winter. Next tour it will be on tour around the provincial theatres. It’s not just a good (arguably, great) play: it is supremely relevant to our present political predicament.

For anyone with socialist/anarchic tendencies (like myself), the progress of the Brexit legislation is going to somewhere between fascinating and a-laugh-a-minute. There are few things more delightful than watching the natural enemy impaled on a cross of his (or, in this case, her) own construction. As the BBC web-site summarises:

MPs must “work together” on Brexit, the minister in charge of the UK’s EU exit has said, as he published a bill to convert EU law into British law.

The legislation, known as the repeal bill, will ensure the same rules apply in the UK after Brexit, while giving UK parliaments the power to change them.

Brexit Secretary David Davis said he will “work with anyone” to make it a success, but he faces opposition.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron told the government: “This will be hell.”

Labour vowed to vote against the legislation unless there were significant changes to the details previously set out, while the SNP said there needed to be “clarity” over which powers repatriated from the EU should go to the devolved nations.

The Conservatives are relying on Democratic Unionist Party support to win key votes after losing their Commons majority in the general election.

BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg said there could be “parliamentary guerrilla warfare” on the bill.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today: “For opposition parties and for Remainer Tories there is a sense today of ‘here we go’. This is government critics’ first big chance, bit by bit in Parliament, to try to put their version of Brexit, not Theresa May’s, on to the statute book”.

Formally known as the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, the draft legislation is a key plank of the government’s Brexit strategy.

Note therein: government critics’ first big chance, bit by bit in Parliament, to try to put their version of Brexit, not Theresa May’s, on to the statute book. This is why Theresa May was induced to go for that General Election, which was supposed to bring in a phalanx of Tory Brexiteers, all grateful to the all-powerful Theresa May for giving them their seat. This is why the Labour Opposition (who, where it counted, exploited the Remain tendency) feel the political wind behind them. This is why the SNP and Lib Dems feel they have a chance to regain lost ground. This is why, for all the Corbyn bounce and froth, the combined Opposition may not — yet — want to bring the whole thing crashing down. Better to watch, wait, and relish the Tories in a terminal agony.

The Tory press

What allowed Fermi’s reactor to “go critical” was withdrawing the control-rods:

A simple design for a control rod was developed, which could be made on the spot: cadmium sheet nailed to a flat wooden strip … The [thirteen-foot] strips had to be inserted and removed by hand. Except when the reactivity of the pile was being measured, they were kept inside the pile and locked using a simple hasp and padlock …

(Herbert Anderson, a research student at Columbia, under John R Dunning, who became Fermi’s assistant at Chicago, quoted by Richard Rhodes, pages 433-4)

The extent to which the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill goes critical, and toxic for the Tories, depends on how the public prints moderate the reaction. The analogy of those cadmium strips is how the “papers of record” record it. Since the UK press is heavily dominated by foreign and Brexiteering owners, I have little faith the delivery will be as honest (and inflammatory) as it should be.

Take, for an example, Iain Martin in today’s The Times.

His main thrust is:

Negotiating Brexit terms with a nascent superstate will require leadership that Theresa May is not equipped to provide

Out of the traps, one recognises a frothing Brexiteer by the travesty of the EU as a nascent superstate. It isn’t. It is a working model of 27 proud and separate nations who have chosen to subsume some aspects of sovereignty in a common enterprise. Martin even goes so far as to nominate the next Tory Prime Minister:

Of the available candidates the Brexit secretary David Davis looks to me the best choice and Boris seems done for. But the chancellor Philip Hammond could emerge, or a compromise candidate such as the home secretary Amber Rudd or Priti Patel, the international development secretary.

We can see we have wandered further into Cloud-Cuckoo-Land when Priti Patel (few come harder rightist) can be suggested as a compromise candidate.

Go forth, or fourth, and stupify

In the middle of Martin’s musings comes this:

Right now, Britain does not have any leadership: it must find it soon or lose badly.

Partly this is because voting to leave a superstate in the making is, it turns out, much easier than actually leaving. The hard Brexiteers had given too little thought to how it would be done, certainly. The softer Brexiteers (me included) cannot agree on what a compromise looks like. And gleeful ultra-Remainers want to try the experiment of telling the voters that last year’s referendum doesn’t count.

Martin elides any distinction between the Tory Party and the wider nation. If Theresa May is not up to the job, the whole national enterprise is rudderless, without leadership. Not so, unless we have truly evolved into an “imperial presidency”. The power in the land should be the collective will of the Commons. If there isn’t a dominating political majority, the various views represented in the Commons have to be sifted until a consensus (actually, no more than a general will of over 320-0r-so MPs) is arrived at.

But Martin’s worst bit of journalistic legerdemain is to assert there are only three possible viewpoints: hard Brexiteers, softer Brexiteers and gleeful ultra-Remainers. The 48% (or, as recent polling suggests, now nearer the mid-50s %) are all gleeful and, like the Irriducibili football hooligans of Lazio, ultras? Catch herself’ on, Iain!

Outside the foetid world of Tory tabloids, one general opinion is closer to a fourth category: soft Remainers.

These are the folk who, regretfully, accept what came out of the 23rd June 2016 referendum,

  • whether or not it was fairly run (the electorate was appropriately pruned),
  • whether or not we voters were told truths, half-truths, or diabolical lies,
  • whether or not a 48.1/51.9 split is final and decisive’
  • whether or not it multiple subsequent interpretations anyhow approximate to what was argued beforehand.

And “soft Remainers” are going to be the crucial mass of MPs and their noble Lordships who will be the equivalent of those cadmium rods, and determine the final shape of  the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill.

One practical example

What happened at Stagg Field has had consequences over the intervening three-quarters of a century (Grief! Am I that old?). It led to:

  • Hiroshima, and Nagasaki;
  • deterrence theory, and MAD;
  • some 500 nuclear power plants across thirty countries around the world;
  • Three Mile Island, and Chernobyl;
  • the production of 11 or 12% of global electricity supplies;
  • nuclear and isotopic medicines and advances.

One thing that has been universally agreed is that nuclear power should be controlled and regulated internationally. After various failures (the Baruch Plan, UNAEC, attempts at non-proliferation treaties), for sixty years we have had the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Not perfect, not wholly world-wide, but it largely works.

Gone critical

Across Europe and 29 nations we have Euratom. Originally Euratom was somewhat aside from the Coal and Steel Community, but was pursued as a discrete operation and source of energy. For convenience, Euratom was folded into the 1965 Merger Treaty of the EEC. Even after Maastricht in 1993, Euratom remained a separate entity, not under direct EU control. There is, logically, no reason why the UK should not remain as associated as Switzerland — except the bone-headedness of one, Theresa May, as the thrall of the Tory head-bangers. The objection by these types is the European Court of Justice’s

rare and arcane judgments on nuclear matters… Rules on nuclear energy are not politically sensitive and were not an issue in the referendum campaign. The government does not need to take such a rigid position on the ECJ in this domain.

(The Times, second leader, 12th July 2017.)

In recent days, all and sundry have recognised that the UK needs supplies of isotopes (for which we have no production facilities) through Euratom (which also gives access to 71% of world uranium production).

Then there is the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station. It will be owned and un by EDF Energy. That is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Électricité de France. Which, some may think, raises intriguing questions of Euratom oversight.

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A quick fisking

Two prefatory notes:
1. Each week-day morning I get three emails:

    • The Times is usually first out of the traps with Matt Chorley’s Red Box;
    • Paul Waugh shrewdly chips in with Waugh Zone, the political lead of HuffPo UK;
    • and, trailing the rear, because he has been mulling yet another excruciatingly-brilliant punning headline, comes the New Statesman‘s Stephen Bush.

2. Back in the days of yore, when social media were in their infancy, we took umbrage at the utterances of Robert Fisk. Because we were so much more intelligent than Fisk, we would “fisk” his columns, with counter arguments.

So, this grey Yorkshire morning, I’m fisking Paul Waugh.

REALITY BITES

Way back in 2010, David Cameron made the Liberal Democrats “a big, open and comprehensive offer” to join him in Government. Tomorrow, Theresa May will make what looks to Labour like a small, closed and limited offer to prop her up in power.

Without exception — and for once even the Torygraph is on board — the commentariat do not like the idea.

May’s relaunch speech has been well trailed overnight and includes a line that she will accept “the new reality” of her loss of a Parliamentary majority. But given her lifelong instinct of trusting only a tight-knit team around her, can May reach out to her own party, let alone Labour and others? May rightly wants to build consensus on areas like social care, but just ask Yvette Cooper or Andy Burnham how open to cross-party working she has been in the past. On the Today programme, even the impeccably moderate Damian Green underlined the difficulties of any cross-party working, ridiculing Angela Rayner over the cost of wiping out all student debt. No wonder Labour’s Andrew Gwynne dismissed May’s olive branch, saying “they’re having to beg for policy proposals from Labour”.

We are not — heaven forfend! — to see this as a “relaunch”. Such lèse-majesté would deny the glory of Number 10.

The rest of that paragraph amount to a recital of so many current metropolitan political memes. Memes they may be; but they seem copper-bottomed. The jibe about student debt should not be over-looked: all sides are now coming around to recognising what a total disaster, educationally and financially — as well as electorally, the ConDem government inflicted by cranking up student fees and debt to the highest in the developed world. Predictably, the Tories continue, officially, to impale themselves while, behind the arras, scratching around for a way to climb-down.

If the UK were Germany, we might have seen some sort of ‘grand coalition’ in the wake of the snap election, driven by a sense of national mission to deliver a consensual Brexit (I remember Gisela Stuart floating the Tory-Labour coalition idea if the 2015 election had seen a hung Parliament). But we are not Germany and it takes world wars, rather than impending trade wars, to make our opposing parties work together on that level.

The essential differences between English and continental political practices derive from:

  • the shape of the Commons chamber, itself a distant legacy from the choir-stalls of St Stephen’s Chapel in the Palace of Westminster. Once there are two sides, each individual member of the Commons had to decide whether he (and it was always a “he”) was right of the Speaker (the Administration) or left (Opposition). Not for nothing are the two front benches traditionally two swords’ lengths apart.
  • over the centuries, the main supply of parliamentarians has been the Law, they are a contrarian, disputatious and forensic lot. Each argument has to be set against a counter-argument. Remember Swift’s satire of the Little-Endians versus the BigEndians.

Of course, Jeremy Corbyn’s success so far has been built on vigorously opposing the Tories, not working with them. And everyone in Parliament remembers just how badly burned the Lib Dems were by the Tories in coalition, never given credit for the good stuff, blamed for the bad stuff. May will say tomorrow that through cross-party working, “ideas can be clarified and improved and a better way forward found”. But in fact she’s admitting the reality that just 7 Tory MPs is all it takes to defeat the Government. And critics will say the only true way to get her to make concessions is to threaten rebellion after rebellion.

“Jeremy Corbyn’s success so far“: notice two presumptions there. “Success” in practice amounts to gaining 30 seats when all the indicators were for a possible loss of as many as sixty. However, in all truth, Labour opposition has been remarkably limited: in particular on the #Brexit thing. When 49 Labour MPs voted against the Government to keep the UK in the single market, they were abused and worse by Corbynite supporters.

One person who could more credibly make a genuinely big, bold offer to Labour is David Davis, precisely because he would be trusted by his own side not to sell out on the big principles, while being pragmatic enough on how to deliver them. I’ve said before that DD is the Martin McGuinness of the Brexit movement, capable of compromise without abandoning his supporters’ main strategic goal. And despite errors from key allies like Andrew Mitchell, he looks increasingly like the favourite in any Tory leadership race. Green this morning reiterated David Lidington’s line about “the warm Prosecco problem” of Tory MPs gossiping about the leadership. But Mitchell’s parties feature only the finest Champagne, and DD himself likes a pint of bitter. That’s the kind of cross-class, party consensus that May will need to worry about most.

For little obvious reason — but mainly, one has to suspect, for want of a better — David Davis has emerged as the Tory front-runner for a new leader (and, in the present dispensation, Prime Minister). I cannot help musing the Waugh over-eggs his pudding with the “trusted by his own side”. The ultras on the frothing right of the Tory Party trust no-one but themselves — which is why Theresa May keeps head-bangers and second-raters like Liam Fox and Andrea Leadsom as household pets. As of now, Davis’s key strength is keeping in line. Were he to go rogue, he could easily bring down the whole shebang.

One final, dislocated thought:

John Rentoul (another commentator of value) is, but of course, cocking an ironic eye there. Irony on irony: that Paul Staines (by name and by nature) felt moved to protect “the establishment”.

On Saturday I was at the Big Meeting, the Durham Miners’ Gala. The Red Banners flew free. The Red Flag was sung, and — uniquely — the singers knew more than the first verse and chorus.  Tee-shirts proclaimed ¡No pasarán! and La lutte continue! I even heard a scratch band bash out The Internationale. I could have bought books, badges and posters celebrating Lenin, Trotsky, James Connolly.

It was all festive, and slightly tongue-in-cheek. For all the revolutionary ardor, these subversives were set on little more than getting down the next pint.

And yet, according to Guido Fawkes: they had already won! These north-easterners had voted #Brexit. They were successfully challenging the Establishment.

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The Europa thing

My starter for ten:

In the 1975 European Referendum campaign I started out as a convinced anti. I had read the arguments by the Labour opponents and found them solid. I spoke from platforms on that basis. As the date of the poll, 5th June, came closer, so my convictions weakened to the point when — for the first and only time in my enfranchised adult life — I couldn’t bring myself even to visit the polling station. Since when I have accepted that — at least for those of us who live and work in the southern UK — the European link goes with the climate. London, after all, as close to Brussels as it is to this fine city of (old) York). And now less than a couple of hours journey from the Euston Road.

Yesterday, with morning coffee and sponge cake …

It was grey and wet, and I spent over an hour watching passing trade from the windows of Belfast’s Europa Hotel. In that time I dissected the Guardian, the Times and the Irish Times. Two opinion pieces stood out:

and

Both attempted to put their topic in an historical context — Ridley, who was essentially plucking books from his guilt-pile, opened with:

In almost every nation, if you go back far enough, government began as a group of thugs who, as Pope Gregory VII put it in 1081, “raised themselves up above their fellows by pride, plunder, treachery, murder — in short by every kind of crime”.

Was Canute, or William the Conqueror, or Oliver Cromwell really much different from the Islamic State? They got to the top by violence and then violently dealt with anybody who rebelled. The American writer Albert Jay Nock in 1939 observed: “The idea that the state originated to serve any kind of social purpose is completely unhistorical. It originated in conquest and confiscation — that is to say, in crime . . . No state known to history originated in any other manner, or for any other purpose.”

Heinrich_4_gBy the way, that quotation (which may be via R.W.Dyson) from Pope Gregory comes from a letter to Bishop Hermann of Metz, in March 1081, at the time when the Papacy was “having issues” over lay investiture with Heinrich IV — which may amount to control of the “single market” of its day.

Government as “violent gangs”?

Ridley’s sub-heading is pertinent:

The threat of force is implicit in law and order but a modern state should recoil at the armour on show in Missouri.

Where that leads to is the edge of terror:

The Republican senator Rand Paul commented in Time magazine that the federal government had incentivised the militarisation of local police, funding municipal governments to “build what are essentially small armies”. Evan Bernick, of the Heritage Foundation, warned last year that “the Department of Homeland Security has handed out anti-terrorism grants to cities and towns across the country, enabling them to buy armoured vehicles, guns, armour, aircraft”. The Pentagon actually donates military equipment to the police, including tanks.

We have not yet gone so far in this country. Ofsted and the Met Office — as far as I know — do not yet arm their inspectors and forecasters. But the days when the state’s monopoly on violence was merely hinted at by a policeman’s uniform are long gone. You see police with sub-machineguns everywhere, and the Met is about to purchase water cannon to keep us in order. I hope that in combating violent gangs, our governments do not themselves turn back into violent gangs.

“A swift and minor change”

Ah, yes! Boris Johnson’s illegal (because Theresa May — bless her cotton socks and leopard kitten-heels — has made clear their use is not “authorised”) water-cannon. Appropriate that Ridley drops that into a Monday when Boris Johnson was arguing for English law to adopt presumption of guilt:

At present the police are finding it very difficult to stop people from simply flying out via Germany, crossing the border, doing their ghastly jihadi tourism, and coming back. The police can and do interview the returnees, but it is hard to press charges without evidence. The law needs a swift and minor change so that there is a “rebuttable presumption” that all those visiting war areas without notifying the authorities have done so for a terrorist purpose.

A different perspective

Yet it is Kennedy’s account of things European that grabbed me.

His thesis depends from the 1957 Treaty of Rome, in which the original six nations:

Determined to lay the foundations of an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe

He emphasises that was explicitly accepted by Britain:

not just since 1973, but effectively since Macmillan’s Conservative government first applied for membership in 1961.

Moreover:

Some argue the “ever closer union” was merely a vague aspiration, committing the member states to nothing more than increased co-operation. But there was little vague about the objectives set at the Paris summit of October 1972 by the six founding members and the three new members – the UK, Ireland and Denmark.

All nine endorsed a transition from a common market to full economic and monetary union by the end of 1980, including, possibly, a single currency. The heads of government also committed to transforming, before the end of 1980, “the whole complex of the relations of member states into a European Union”.

Even the Iron Lady, despite her later apostasy, accepted the notion:

Global economic crises and differences among the member states meant the 1980 deadline was missed, but it was replaced in the mid-1980s by the 1992 deadline for the completion of the single (or internal) market, based on a detailed schedule of European legislation to guarantee free movement of goods, services, capital and people within the EU – a project warmly endorsed by then prime minister Margaret Thatcher. [My emphasis]

“It’s for real.”

Allow me to go beyond Kennedy’s account, to recall just how Thatcher — as late as 1988 — gushed with enthusiasm for the Single Market:

We must get this right. Too often in the past Britain has missed opportunities.

How we meet the challenge of the Single Market will be a major factor, possibly the major factor, in our competitive position in European and world markets into the twenty-first century. Getting it right needs a partnership between government and business.

The task of government is two-fold: — to negotiate in Brussels so as to get the possible results for Britain; —and then to make you, the business community, aware of the opportunities, so that you can make the most of them.

It’s your job, the job of business, to gear yourselves up to take the opportunities which a single market of nearly 320 million people will offer.

Just think for a moment what a prospect that is. A single market without barriers—visible or invisible—giving you direct and unhindered access to the purchasing power of over 300 million of the world’s wealthiest and most prosperous people.

Bigger than Japan. Bigger than the United States. On your doorstep. And with the Channel Tunnel to give you direct access to it.

It’s not a dream. It’s not a vision. It’s not some bureaucrat’s plan. It’s for real. And it’s only five years away.

Quite what she meant by Action to get rid of the barriers if not a pragmatic ever closer union defeats me.

Yet this is what the contemporary, revanchist Tories want to reverse. And, now, Cameron — who has been playing footsie for so long — finally concedes to his frothing Eurosceptics:

I do not oppose further integration within the eurozone: I think it is inevitable. Eurozone members must make those decisions. But I know the British people want no part of it, want to avoid deeper integration, and want our country properly protected from the impacts on the single market of any further integration that the eurozone undertakes.

This is not the speech of a “thinker”: it is subjective (note the proliferation of first-person singulars here, as in all Cameron speeches) and visceral. But it is not visceral conviction: it is the gut-wrenching fear of being outflanked by the UKIPpers and eurosceptics of his own party. And, as Kennedy suggests, it is dangerous nonsense:

… is the UK debate … a domestic squabble fuelled by fear of Ukip and the reluctance of the major parties to challenge Euroscepticism? Is it a dangerous bluff to frighten EU partners into concessions? If so, it could be a serious miscalculation.

“Miscalculation”?

This could be Cameron’s political epitaph.

  • After five years of spatchcocked coalition,
  • with austerity,
  • over the Scottish referendum,
  • with growing social division exacerbated by gross mishandling of welfare,
  • over indecisive foreign policy,
  • with repressive tendencies and cleavages growing in his own party, and now
  • with Europe —

“The great miscalculator”.

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Putty medal to Yvette

On Tuesday, when Gids Osborne was shafting Ed Balls — to loud approval from his backbenches, everything was fine-and-dandy.

By PMQs on Wednesday, the shaft was thrusting the other way — to the extent that Quentin Letts had to construct a Mail sketch wholly ignoring the headline act.

Advantage, Dominic Raab

Then, today, total Tory chaos ensued with Dominic Raab (himself a distinguished lawyer) putting an amendment to the Immigration Bill. With its explicit and deliberately-intended ECHR-illegality, this was nearly wished upon Theresa May. A messy bit of on-off Tory whipping (allegedly the party line was changed five times during the morning) ended up with mass abstention by the pay-roll vote, and 87 Tory and 10 Labour votes in favour. Labour and LibDem votes saw the Home Office off this hook, for the time being.

We await, with some interest, how all this can be spun to the lasting credit of Tory HQ, Downing Street, the Home Office, and sold to the loyal Tory press.

Cue, Paul Waugh

Then we had this (continuing) exchange:

Twitter spat

 Kudos, Yvette Cooper

Earlier, Paul Waugh had been tweeting:

I suspect EdM, not Cooper, made the final call on Lab voting against Raab. Echoes of Liam Byrne kneecapped to vote against Benefits cap?

Whatever the truth there, Yvette Cooper was able to take chunks out of Theresa May and the Home Office — seemingly to enjoy herself thoroughly.

Of course, it will hardly be a lasting achievement. Somehow the amendment, had it been carried would have been mislaid somehow, somewhere, or sucked into the Black Hole that is the House of Lords. Had Labour been truly, deeply nasty, also abstained, let Raab have his wicked way, it could even have transpired (knowing the ironies and delays of these things) that after 2015 a future Labour Home Secretary would be paying good lawyers good money to defend this abomination before the ECHR.

Hence Ms Cooper deserves only a “putty medal”. Let’s consult the OED:

putty medal   n. humorous a worthless reward for insignificant service or achievement.

To which is appended a citation:

1893 Times 26 July 11/6 (advt.)  Our system..is as far removed from the little five and ten pound systems of dealing as is a genuine sovereign from a putty medal.

Malcolm’s Dear Old Mum had the expression too often for Malcolm’s self-esteem, but it seems to have lapsed in usage subsequently.

Welcome, Betty Martin

When the dust settled, the Raab amendment had been rubbished by 241 Nays to those 97 Ayes. In the run-up we had Norman Smith doing his impartial BBC bit:

No 10 say “relaxed” about Tory ‘rebel’ vote on Immigration Bill

and

No 10 say “not that far apart” from Dominic Raab over his ‘rebel’ motion but do not think it is is workable

Spinning away there, the afternoon press briefing.

Of which one can cheerfully say:  all my eye and Betty Martin. Let’s help the OED here, which simply calls it a noun, with no great explanation except the citations. Its modern equivalent would be along the lines of

“a load of old cobblers”

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Pavlovians: start your salivations now!

It’s all there in Paul Waugh’s tweet:

Two slimy gits and a cat-fight.

Not promising to be a good day for the revival of Tory morale.

Should be fun.

Get the pop-corn in. Pennants at the ready!

All together: Give me a Y! Give me a V! Give me an E …

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May be, or maybe not

Here’s a couple of starters:

From Robert A. Nye, Masculinity and Male Codes of Honor in Modern France (page 195):

The radical press was particularly savage, aiming its invective directly at the man whose policies it so despised… Le Radical held that “France will forget everything except ridicule; what it pardons leasts of all are retreats.”

Not just the “radical press. Not just a “man” it despises. Here is Matthew Pritchett’s, as so often, skewering Telegraph pocket cartoon:

Meanwhile, the Times was having a go:

You’re not look’ yer best, luv!

It’s just as well we didn’t look at the pinko rags, what?

In fact, similar images, variously cropped, appeared on the front pages of The Guardian and the Telegraph. Not nice.

A sexist musing:

Ridicule, of one kind or another goes with the territory in British politics: Dave “Flashman” Cameron and Ed “Grommit”  Miliband are par for the course. It is somewhat different for female politicos, though.

Margaret Thatcher’s handbag was totemic was potent and totemic, while Julian Critchley’s lexicon of insults, most famously “the great she-elephant”, never caught on outside a charmed acquaintance. The inner-circle Tory novelist, Michael Dobbs, wrote an article about just that:

A “handbagging” became the term we used for those occasions when it felt as if it had been swung and used in violence against us. Every time it appeared it screamed at us – never forget she knows more than you, that she is a woman, that she is “The Boss”.

She was known by many other names that reflected her authority – the Leaderene, the Great She Elephant, Attila the Hen – yet there were times when the mask of invincibility slipped, when the pressures and pains of office would catch up with her, when in private the ice-blue eyes would redden and the tears gather. Sometimes they were tears of frustration and rage at the antics of political opponents, some insult or obstruction that usually led back to Ted Heath. Often it was because of terrible news, such as the murder of her great friend Airey Neave by Irish terrorists. On those occasions the handbag would provide tissues to dry the eye and dab at the damp nose and a little mirror to inspect the repair work, knowing that in a few moments she would have to face the world.

And Theresa May? Her version is footwear:

Ever since she stepped out in a pair of leopard-print kitten heels at the Tory party conference in 2002, Theresa May’s feet have been a focus for fashionistas.

For years many have assumed she puts on fancy footwear to capture the limelight.

Even that little gimmick was, this week, used against her:

Theresa May put on a pair of her famously colourful shoes and went out on the town on Tuesday night, no doubt believing she had earned the right to have a drink or two.

Three weeks back, Mrs May popped up on BBC morning television to big up a proposal for minimum pricing of alcohol. She was asked about her own intake, and was … a bit off-piste, or pissed off. Get it here, courtesy of HuffPo.

Oh, and that “a drink or two” is no mere formula of words, as the Telegraph noted:

The Home Secretary was pictured with her husband at the V&A museum, smiling broadly as she enjoyed the lavish birthday party of a celebrity PR agent.

It was the end of a long day on which she had appeared to seize the initiative in the battle to kick out Abu Qatada, the radical preacher detained without trial in this country for almost a decade.

The whole woman-in-political-shambles problem was discussed by Tony Harnden, again for the Telegraph, in relation to those walking, talking, pouting and preening disasters,

Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin – ‘two girls’ walking a sexism tightrope

Gender works both ways. “Because they’re female, Bachmann and Palin have been able to say things that men can no longer get away with,” John Feehery, a Republican consultant, told me. “Their rhetoric, the lashings they give Obama, is extraordinarily tough.

“They are in many ways putting on the pants, which is emblematic of what’s going on in American society. The unemployment rate among women is fairly low compared to the unemployment rate among men.”

But there is also a heightened danger for women candidates that they can be defined as extreme or stupid, which could be the kiss of death in a general election against Mr Obama. While the “mud wrestling” comment was accurate, it hardly furthered Mrs Bachmann’s aim of proving her seriousness.

As the leading republican strategist Rich Galen told me last week: “In American politics, you can come back from anything except ridicule.”

Not only in America, it seems.

Which leaves two remaining questions?

Why did Mrs May go so blatantly public so prematurely, and why?

There seem to be two explanations out there.

One is that, yet again, she was being wheeled out as the photogenic bomb shelter, in this case for the continuing disaster that is the Osborne budget last month.

The other is that is was some pre-emptive strike on the Brighton summit the Cameroonies have cobbled together to get the Council of Europe to reconsider the European Court of Human Rights. Yuman Rites, at least as understood by the neanderthaler Tory right-wingers, is one of the issues capable of dissolving the ConDem coalition.

Either which way, it all went deliciously pear-shaped. No reflection on the shape or physique of the former Ms Brazier.

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Filed under Britain, Conservative family values, Conservative Party policy., Daily Express, Daily Telegraph, Gender, politics, Theresa May, Times, Tories., US politics

Oborne! Oh, boy! Oooh … err

The Torygraph has made up its mind on all things Cameroonie. The ferret will have to be reversed soon or the official line involves UKIPping.

Peter Oborne today has a go at Theresa May, comparing her get-put-of-gaol card (the black spot decrying Brodie Clark as the “rogue operator”) with the honourable tradition of ministerial resignations:

It is almost 30 years since a British politician last resigned on a matter of honour. That was Lord Carrington, who insisted on taking the responsibility for British unpreparedness ahead of the Argentine invasion of the Falklands…

Compare and contrast the exemplary conduct of Lord Carrington with the wretched, self-serving and disreputable behaviour of Theresa May. For the past week, Mrs May has had only one objective: survival. In her desperate and apparently unscrupulous concern to save her own skin, she has tried to pass the blame on to more vulnerable people.

Fair enough: that was then; this is now.

Then Oborne swings his cudgel another way:

One of the reasons why Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, was so weak in the House of Commons yesterday is that she is in no position to attack Mrs May. Her husband, Ed Balls, sought to get himself out of trouble after the very shocking Baby P case by ordering that Haringey’s director of social services, Sharon Shoesmith, be sacked. Mrs Shoesmith was able in due course to extract a huge compensation payment.

The first part of that makes no sense: both Cooper and Balls are adults, able practitioners of the darkest arts in a dirty trade. Neither needs the other to stand up for her/him.

The second part overlooks a truly loathsome exercise of precisely the political corruption Oborne attacks.

Sharon Shoesmith was a capable officer of Haringey Council, who was hustled to the guillotine in the need for a high-profile scapegoat. Foremost among les tricoteuses, wielding her knitting-needles to hurry the victim towards the scaffold, was the LibDem MP for Hornsey and Wood Green.

The Honourable Lynne Featherstone MP — for it was she with the sharpened stainless steel Knit Pros — earned her reward, and is now a junior minister in Mrs May’s Department.

Yet, for all her venality, Featherstone was merely pandering to the self-appointed, irresponsibly-potent Committee of Public Safety of the tabloid columnists. Greater love hath no MP, knowing an election is in the offing, than to have her name favourably featured in a front-page crusade! Oh, to be associated, however loosely, in the public consciousness, on the side of the angels trumpeting saucy stuff like:

As a nation, we became obsessed with the case of Baby P. We winced at the details of his unbelievably cruel death at the hands of his mother and her vicious boyfriend. 

We were angered by the failure of social services to protect this innocent little boy from harm.

etc., etc.

Let’s milk this for all it’s worth, fellow harlots. So who authored that little bit of sensationalist poison? Guess! In your heart, you know …

Of course, it’s the rent-boy Oborne, now trolling his stuff a bit further up-market with the Telegraph, but then being pimped by the Daily Mail.

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Filed under Conservative family values, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, David Cameron, Ed Balls, Lib Dems, Lynne Featherstone, Peter Oborne, sleaze., Theresa May, Tories.