Category Archives: Tories.

Separated at the Vicarage?

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May 19, 2017 · 9:31 am

The not-so-great and the not-so-good, revisited: an extended intro

A while back I attempted a succession of these: blog-efforts on rediscovered and overlooked characters, mainly from Irish history. Many of them were scions and by-products of the Ascendancy.

But first the prologue (the main event is the next post):

The Tory-people-friendly UK government press offices put out a couple of images of the Chancellor:

cx8rag4weaaauib-jpg-large cx8ze-pxaaa_mfd

Th estimable @JohnRentoul nailed one of the portraits:

William Pitt the Younger on the left, I think. Who’s on the right?

While I was rootling madly through the Government’s Art collection, the answer came from elsewhere:

Gordon, John Watson; Sir George Cornewall Lewis (1806-1863), 2nd Bt, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Editor of the 'Edinburgh Review'; Government Art Collection; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/sir-george-cornewall-lewis-18061863-2nd-bt-chancellor-of-the-exchequer-editor-of-the-edinburgh-review-28284

Gordon, John Watson; Sir George Cornewall Lewis (1806-1863), 2nd Bt, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Editor of the ‘Edinburgh Review’.

Not a “well-known” name, but Lewis deserves a bit of a boost — around 1862 — stone-walling the ultras who wanted the UK to go for the Confederates in the American Civil War.

His origins were in the Welsh Marches, but his Irish connection was a worthy one.

As  a young, rising, and talented lawyer, freshly-minted by the Middle Temple, with an interest in the “public service”, in 1833 Lewis  became “an assistant commissioner of the inquiry into the condition of the poorer classes of Ireland”. He spent some time in 1834 researching the problems among the Irish diaspora across the developing industrial towns of England. Then he turned to the state of Irish education, which took him into heavy reading on the land question and on the Irish established church.

Out of that, in 1836, came a substantial document:  On Local Disturbances in Ireland; and on the Irish Church Question:

title-page

Don’t rush past that: note the dedication. Charles Sumner was in England in 1838, as part of a European tour. Sumner would go on to be a potent force in American politics, as an abolitionist, founding member of the Republican Party, and Radical during the Reconstruction.

Lewis’s book was seminal in looking to balance the ecclesiastical situation in Ireland, by ‘concurrent endowment’ (he invented the term), and in advocating ‘a legal provision for the poor’, which amounted to applying to Ireland the principles of the 1834 English poor law. It doesn’t need a genius to spot where that one would go adrift in the Great Famine, particularly as Lewis was also rejecting ‘the principle that it is the duty of the state to find employment for the people’.

Rapid promotion

lewisLewis became Chancellor of the Exchequer in a wholly mid-Victorian manner.

His father died in January 1855, and Lewis inherited the baronetcy and, on 8th February 1855, unopposed, the seat as MP for the Radnorshire boroughs. On 22nd February he became Gladstone’s successor at the Treasury, and on 28th February a Privy Councillor.

We might wonder at Phillip Hammond’s choice of such a figure, to look over his shoulder in the study of Number 11, Downing Street.

Here are a couple of suggestions:

First, am I wholly adrift in seeing some facial similarities between the image on the right, and Hammond, himself?

Second, Lewis came to the Chancellorship in a moment of financial crisis — how to pay for the Crimean War. Hammond has even greater problems, in the aftermath of the #Brexit vote.

Allow me to filch from the Dictionary of National Biography:

Lewis remained chancellor until the government was defeated in February 1858. Gladstone at first was helpfulness incarnate to his successor, but Lewis deviated from Gladstone’s canons of financial rectitude, especially with respect to the question of whether to finance the Crimean War by taxation or by loans. Lewis faced a severe crisis in the nation’s finances, brought on by a war more prolonged and expensive than anyone had expected. His first budget, on 20 April 1855, had to meet a deficit of £23 million. Lewis raised £16 million by a loan, £3 million by exchequer bills (later increased to £7 million), and the remaining £4 million by raising income tax from the already high 14d. to 16d. in the pound and by raising indirect taxes. The £68 million thus raised was easily the largest sum raised up to this time by a British government. Lewis’s budget set aside the Gladstonian view that war abroad should be met by corresponding taxation-pain at home but, in terms of practical politics, financing by loans (to which Lewis resorted again in his second budget of 19 May 1856) was probably unavoidable if Palmerston’s government was to survive. In 1855 Lewis carried through the Commons the Newspaper Stamp Duties Bill, an inheritance from Gladstone and an important step in repealing the ‘taxes on knowledge’ (as the duties on newspapers and paper were called). Lewis’s policy of loans meant excellent commissions and profits for the City of London, which greatly preferred him to Gladstone.

Such parallel: almost uncanny.

 

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Filed under Britain, Conservative Party policy., EU referendum, History, Ireland, John Rentoul, Tories., United States

Prerogatives derogated

In that previous post I found myself saying:

I can just about conceive circumstances in which “Royal Prerogative” might need to be invoked — short of a declaration of War. Say the administration of a devolved Assembly became totally unmanageable …

That post was already over-long, so I omitted the small matter of:

prerog

This is an interesting document, because (at the end of the last Labour government) it attempted to identify where the Royal prerogative persisted; and even where it should be going.

Not entirely surprisingly, once Tories are running the show, that script-line gets lost. We haven’t entirely overcome the ancient Royalist and Roundhead cleavage.

One surprise, though, was just how restricted the Prerogative had become:

para12

All of a sudden, it looks “containable”, though there’s an obvious (and very relevant in the context here) quibble in the final sentence there.

When we arrive at the “summary” of the document’s purpose:

to provide an overview of areas where ministerial prerogative powers are exercised, or have been exercised recently

Here again we encounter an account of Prerogative with a particular significance in the #Brexit context:

foreign

Happily, on that basis, Messers Boris Johnson, Neil Fox and David Davis (messers all), with Madame May “directing”, can carry on diplomatically. Not that diplomacy seems to have been the name of their recent games.

May be I’m being picky (what’s new?) but then I have to see something awry:

The “Power to make and ratify treaties” doesn’t logically extend  to abrogating them.

And that’s what Article 50 does.

 

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1014 and All That

Æthelred in an early thirteenth-century copy of the Abingdon Chronicle

Æthelred in an early thirteenth-century copy of the Abingdon Chronicle

We have just had one of those moments when everyone brushes up on the English Constitution.

The High Court has pronounced on #Brexit; and dropped a great dollop of whoops-oh-nasty onto the May Government. The May Government will now try to appeal to the Supreme Court. For in law, as no where else, the Siphonaptera applies:

Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite ’em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum.
And the great fleas themselves, in turn, have greater fleas to go on,
While these again have greater still, and greater still, and so on.

With some small joy, the BBC political editor, Laura Kuenssberg (herself only two generations descent from one of the great Scottish jurists) was relishing that the High Court had cited a precedent from 1610:

27. Sir Edward Coke reports the considered view of himself and the senior judges of the time in The Case of Proclamations (1610) 12 Co. Rep. 74, that

“the King by his proclamation or other ways cannot change any part of the common law, or statute law, or the customs of the realm”

and that :

“the King have no prerogative, but that which the law of the land allows him.”

So, phooey to you, Theresa May and your claims of “prerogative”.

There’s a nice extra bit in quoting Coke on the customs of the realm, because that takes us so far back behind the veil of history.

The Lady in My Life’s tattered paperback copy of G M Trevelyan’s Shortened History of England seems to have gone AWOL, so I’m having to pull this bit from Wikipedia:

The Scandinavians, when not on the Viking warpath, were a litigious people and loved to get together in the ‘thing’ to hear legal argument. They had no professional lawyers, but many of their farmer-warriors, like Njal, the truth-teller, were learned in folk custom and in its intricate judicial procedure. A Danish town in England often had, as its main officers, twelve hereditary ‘law men.’ The Danes introduced the habit of making committees among the free men in court, which perhaps made England favorable ground for the future growth of the jury system out of a Frankish custom later introduced by the Normans.

Trevelyan then moves on to remark on Æthelred (the Redeless/ the Unready — yes, him).

51njn6gh8nl-_sx331_bo1204203200_That sent me to Maddicott: The Origins of the English Parliament of which a clean, crisp copy I do have here. Because I knew there (on page 37) I would find this:

The turning point came in 1014: a year of disasters in which the victories of the Danish king Swein, culminating in his capture of London, had forced Æthelred to take refuge overseas. What followed set a precedent for future bargaining between kings and councils. Æthelred was recalled from a brief exile in Normandy by ‘all the councillors (þa witan ealle) who were in England’. In advance of his return he promised to be a gracious lord to his people and to reform what they all hated, on condition that they gave him their unqualified allegiance. John of Worcester adds that he also undertook to fall ion with their advice. These terms were clearly imposed by the councillors as the price of Æthelred’s restoration. As Sir Frank Stenton long ago pointed out, they are ‘of great constitutional interest as the first recorded pact between an English king and his subjects’.

If anyone is still in doubt: the whole government case for being able to invoke Article 50, without prior parliamentary approval, lies in a claim that the Prime Minister has the residual Crown prerogative.

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“Theresa May’s honeymoon is masking her many vulnerabilities” — Andrew Rawnsley

Now the silly season is over (except in Labour Party elections), Rawnsley is back, bright and bushy-tailed. However he starts with a journo’s dissimulating mock-stutter:

I have been trying – so far, I confess, without success – to discover who minted the phrase “political honeymoon”. It is a strange expression: marriage is rarely an appropriate metaphor for a country’s relationship with its leader. It describes an odd quirk of electorates. The public tell pollsters that they are most enthusiastically in favour of a leader in his or her opening period in office, precisely the time when voters know least about the person who has just taken charge.

If we must look only at the two-word cliché, I’d suggest referring to the numerous histories of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He could, of course, have simply looked up the expression, though that might have bust his word-limit. On which, may I selflessly advocate the local borough library. Get a library card (today it’s just another of those debit/credit card shapes that fill our wallets) and use its number to log on to the on-line resources. My standbys are the Oxford English Dictionary and the Dictionary of National Biography. Now, if only I could equally access, for free, the untold wealth of JSTOR

With the OED we find a healthy history of how the “honeymoon” metaphor evolved:

1.a. The period immediately following marriage, as characterized by love and happiness. Later also: a period of love and happiness at the beginning of a similar relationship. Now chiefly with reference to the ending of such a period. In early use also without article.

Let’s pass over that swiftly, except to note the cynical Now chiefly with reference to the ending of such a period.

We move on to:

b. An initial period of friendly relations, goodwill, or enthusiasm. Freq. in political contexts. Now chiefly with reference to the ending of such a period.In early use also without article.

Hello! Something of interest there already! The earliest citing for 1.a. is 1546, in John Heywood’s collection of English proverbs, or rather (since the 16th century never did anything concisely — though this being the 1562 “second edition”):

A dialogue conteyning the number of the effectuall prouerbes in the Englishe tounge, compact in a matter concernynge two maner of maryages. With one hundred of Epigrammes, and three hundred of Epigrammes vpon three hundred prouerbes; and a fifth hundred of Epigrams. Wherevnto are now newly added a syxt hundred of Epigrams, by the sayde John Heywood.

“Honey moon”, then was current before the mid-sixteenth century — which may say something about the English conceit of “romantic love”

Then we see, again from that OED entry, that it had pretty soon become a metaphor Freq. in political contexts. The third citation under 1.b is explicitly political:

1655    T. Fuller Church-hist. Brit.  iv. 158   Kingdoms have their honey-moon, when new Princes are married unto them.

Which we can acquire on-line.

Just that citation was used by  for The Washington Times, reflecting (18 November 2008) on the election of Barrack Obama:

… my attitude towards the president-elect is utterly dissimilar to what I experienced on my real honeymoon. I didn’t chose him, I don’t trust him (if he knows of me he doubtlessly reciprocates such sentiments), and I don’t look forward to a long relationship with him.

The only part of the metaphor I can relate to is the bit about “comparing the mutual affection of newly-married persons to the changing moon which is no sooner full than it begins to wane.” By my calculation, that means that the honeymoon will be over by December 4th. In fact, already, my positive passions are feeling rather “wane.” According to the Oxford English Dictionary the early references to the political honeymoon metaphor start in 1655 (Fuller): “Kingdoms have their honeymoon, when new Princes are married unto them”; 1795 (Burke) “Spain, in the honey-moon of her new servitude”; and 1867 (Goldwin, Smith) “The brief honeymoon of the new king and his parliament.” In each of those early examples, the circumstances of the honeymoon are mandatory, begrudging and short. I think Burke’s best catches the moment (“the honey-moon of her servitude”).

Since that is the Washington Times (i.e. the voice of Sun Ayung Moon‘s Unification Church), rather than the other daily newspaper, one of record and respect, from DC, we can pay as little regard as we can.

Except, then, Blankly’s reputation has not enhanced as Obama’s has. Yet Blankly (deceased, mainly to be recalled as Speaker Newt Gingrich‘s public organ) does come up with a decent point:

It is curious how the sexual metaphor – with all its ambiguities – is often used in politics.

I’d guess Blankly is referring precisely to “political honeymoon”, but were we to consider just how often sexual expressions get used in political contexts, wow! there is can of worms.

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Filed under Andrew Rawnsley, Observer, Oxford English Dictionary, politics, Tories.

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.