THE MILLER’S TALE

I’ve no doubt loyal Labour members currently sheltering from sea breezes in Brighton are convinced we’re in the middle of a class war at the moment; if true, it means loyal Labour members are back in their comfort zone; to be engaged in a perpetual struggle on behalf of the virtuous peasantry against the wicked Tory robber-baron is crucial to the movement. I should imagine the pro-Corbyn narrative goes that the salt-of-the-earth working man and woman are being oppressed by a privileged public school elite, what with Oceania always being at war with Eurasia and so on; we won’t mention the schools some of those on the Labour frontbench attended – or the educational establishments some of them dispatched their children to, of course; the haves only come in one colour, and that colour is blue.

Actually, it’s indisputable that there is a class war underway right now, but it’s not the familiar model with opposing corners colour-coded in blue and red; it’s a class war between members of the same class, regardless of party allegiances – a War of the Roses for the political class. What’s being played out across the media for our plebbish delectation today is effectively a family feud, and we shouldn’t allow whatever stance we take on the cause of this split to blind us to that fact. In the light of today’s Supreme Court judgement, we’re being bombarded by the smug, sickening countenances of arrogant, entitled, wealthy, privately-educated metropolitans exuding euphoria as they sock other arrogant, entitled, wealthy, privately-educated metropolitans on the jaw. The rest of us are just dispensable infantry, the first in the line of fire as the generals issue orders from the officer enclaves of Kensington and Islington.

Yet both sides are pedalling the same shtick in claiming which rich bitches are our rich bitches, laughably trying to align us with whichever side chimes with whichever side of the Leave/Remain divide we reside on. Let’s not delude ourselves into pretending otherwise: neither Gina Miller nor Bo-Jo view us as anything other than provincial pond-life, too retarded and ill-educated to act independently of them; they are the cosseted colonials sipping vintage wine on the veranda and we are the contemptible coolies at their feet, the subservient natives tugging our forelocks. Anyone not belonging to that club who cheers-on Lady Nugee whilst simultaneously hurling abuse at Rees-Mogg is complicit in their own oppression, a willing junior partner in social coercion; the only discernible difference between the two is the Brexit factor.

Despite Jezza’s momentary triumph in maintaining his position courtesy of hardcore devotees yesterday, the Labour Party is overwhelmingly Remain; the Lib Dems won’t even sanction a second referendum anymore – they’ve made it clear they simply want to revoke the vote of 17 million like it never happened; and now the Supreme Court has given the green light to Bonaparte Bercow to promenade his way back into the Commons tomorrow and resume his place on the throne again. There are inevitable calls for the PM to hand in his notice, though the one sure-fire way to force him out is being denied; rather than involve the unreliable electorate, much better to have a ‘caretaker’ administration of honourable members hand-picked by other honourable members, no doubt; and that’s taking back control – not by us from Brussels, but by Westminster (and therefore Brussels) from us.

Yes, Boris Johnson gambled and f***ed up – maybe once more exhibiting the fatal flaw that Eton breeds across the board, one that overlooks the fact that some of its sons aren’t as bright as they think they are; but watching Edinburgh’s Man in Westminster Ian Blackford emerge from the Supreme Court this morning in a manner that implied Hibs had just won the Scottish Premier League was a salient lesson in deceptive body language. Does anyone really believe SNP MPs – whose entire raison d’être is to extricate their corner of the UK from the rest – seriously give a shit what becomes of Britain beyond their tartan bubble? Naturally, Blackford and, to be fair, pretty much all Remainers representing constituencies south of Berwick as well, will claim the announcement by Lady Hale signifies victory for the ‘right’ side of the nation over an unelected dictator who has become the most prominent face of the ‘wrong’ side. And self-interest doesn’t come into it at all.

Being locked-out of their private members’ club was such an affront to their superior sense of entitlement that they and those in business with whom they share the same piss-pot have conspired to take the Prime Minister to court and thus gain access again. They haven’t shown quite the same urgency when it comes to the dozens of genuinely pressing issues affecting ordinary lives over the last three years, and lest we forget they won’t deign to grant us a say in who represents us in the Commons either. Today’s ruling is merely the further neutering of No.10; the PM no longer even possesses the authority to dissolve Parliament and bring the electorate back into the picture anymore; and amidst the euphoric celebrations and concurrent denunciations of Boris’s doomed decision to prorogue, the loudest popping of corks will be emanating from the kitchens of those preventing the General Election that will probably cost them their prized seats at two profitable tables. No wonder they’re so ecstatic.

After seeing the latest lengths to which the prime movers and shakers will go in order to prevent us from ‘crashing out of the EU’, I’m increasingly convinced we’re never going to leave it. Look at the facts. We were given two simple options in 2016 and the promise to abide by the decision of the majority was enshrined not only in the Referendum itself, but by everyone seeking re-election the following year. Three and-a-half years later and we remain in the EU, with many of the most disgruntled Remainers in positions of power showing their true colours either by hiding behind the red herring of a Second Referendum or simply declaring the result of 2016 null and void. To give the idiot credit, however, David Lammy was saying the latter the day after the result was declared (something I recently rediscovered when re-reading my posts of the time – at least Lammy is consistent on this issue).

Supreme Court events today will boost the confidence of those claiming a majority of the country is now very much in line with their way of thinking; and while it’s true that millions of Brits without a free pass to Westminster are indeed keen to remain subjects of Brussels, they had their chance to say so in 2016 – as did those who think the opposite. And if this sorry saga trundles on towards what is coming to look like its inevitable conclusion, the latter will be well within their rights to walk away from the democratic process for good.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1689841532

© The Editor

THE BOOK OF LIFE

Yes, it’s the book they’re all talking about! It’s the book they’ve all been waiting for! It’s the book that definitely won’t be going for 99p in the Great British charity shop within a matter of months, no sir! The book in question is, of course, ‘Winegums from The Telegram’, the first volume of collected posts from this here blog in paperback form. Had you fooled for a minute there, didn’t I. Apparently, some posh-boy pig-f**ker who used to run the country or something has got a memoir out that he’s desperately plugging across the media, but nobody really gives a shit about that.

Anyway, as the Telegram is coming up for four years-old, I thought it long overdue that I gather together its finest moments in one volume, just like the columnists of old used to do. Then I began trying. I realised four years means a lot of posts – a hell of a lot. At one time, I’d be posting something on an almost-daily basis, and years inconveniently having over 300 days has meant I’ve had to be scrupulous in deciding what to put in and what to leave out. Gradually, I realised if I wanted to do the blog justice as a document of what has been pretty much a ‘Golden Age’ in terms of having big events to write about, I had to make the book version a series. Therefore, I’ve put together three so far, and there’s still enough material to easily make four.

Each essay is reproduced exactly as it appeared – and still exists online – for it would have seemed dishonest to edit any simply because my opinion might have changed from the one expressed within the individual article. As I began to read through them, it dawned on me that these little time capsules were virtual diary entries, accurately reflecting how I felt at the precise moment I pressed the ‘publish’ button (which is what happens when you’ve finished writing and you’re ready for the readership to sample it). These aren’t after-the-event retrospectives, but subjective reportage ‘as it happened’, so it felt important to reproduce them properly on the printed page, warts and all.

Although each post is in chronological order of publication, collected posts on the same subjects are divided into separate chapters to try and establish some sort of narrative. In volume one, for example, the first chapter features all the posts covering UK politics this year, right from the very first post in January (‘Divide and Misrule’) and up to the one that appeared on 10 September (‘Prorogue State’); a shame 2019 couldn’t have been more eventful in Westminster, but you can’t have everything. Chapter two is devoted to pop cultural posts, whereas the third features my more personal chronicle of 2018, which was a unique year for all the wrong reasons. Naturally, the scope widens for volumes two and three so that the USA, Europe and the rest of the world get a look in. Indeed, it was only when I started working my way through the Winegum back catalogue that I realised just how many different topics I’ve covered since December 2015 – even if a few have tended to dominate. It is true however, that some subjects have proven to be more inexhaustible than others.

Thankfully – well, depending how you look at it – this blog got off the ground just in time to catch the beginning of Brexit; the date of the game-changing Referendum was announced barely two months into the Winegum’s existence. I’ve therefore been able to chronicle the whole messy business from day one, and I’ve no doubt Dave imagined that by the time his own masterly contribution to the libraries of the nation appeared on the shelves the chaos he unleashed would have settled, thus saving him from any unpleasant revivals of the blame game. Instead, it rather fortuitously happens to fall smack bang in the middle of the latest attempt by the arrogant and entitled (led, of course, by Ms Miller) to not so much ‘take back’ control as hold onto it for dear life.

The English judiciary is now in the proroguing spotlight, hot on the heels of its Scottish equivalent giving the thumbs-down last week; a nation governed by rampant pro-EU Nationalists was hardly going to judge the PM’s decision favourably, though. Following a slickly-staged stunt intended to humiliate beleaguered Boris in Luxembourg, the ‘other side’ are turning up the heat on the Prime Minister in the hope Parliament will be recalled. What exactly they hope to actually do in Parliament if the Supreme Court bows to the Remainer mafia remains to be seen, however, for all they’ve done for the last three-and-a-half years is to try and thwart a democratic mandate at the expense of implementing any important legislation. So, I guess we’re talking more of the same.

Good old dependable Jo Swinson has at least dropped any pretences of a phony ‘People’s Vote’ this week, so that’s been a refreshing confirmation of everything we already knew about the Lib Dem approach to the issue. Most amusingly of all, Swinson’s brazen honesty has irked ideological allies such as Caroline Lucas, who still prefers to mask her true intentions in the Second Referendum smokescreen. But Swinson is oozing self (or over) confidence at the moment.

Buoyed by the addition of another lacklustre Tory reject to the ranks, the Lib Dem leader roused the faithful at the Party Conference with an echo of David Steel’s infamous ‘Go back to your constituencies and prepare for government’ call. Liberals do have a habit of getting carried away with what passes for popularity between General Elections. But perhaps Swinson’s belief that her party can win a majority is merely another reflection of Remainer righteousness – or perhaps the righteousness of the political class as a whole. Swinson herself is, like Dave before her, another product of the smooth conveyor belt that took her from university to Westminster at a tender age with a brief pause en route for a short sample of what ‘real life’ feels like. Therefore, she’s expertly qualified to lecture 17 million members of the unwashed electorate on where they went wrong.

One benefit of going through old posts with a fine tooth comb has been to remind myself just how Cameron and his rotten administration (both with and without their Lib Dem whipping-boys) really were the embodiment of the Nasty Party ideal. No posthumous whitewash in attempting to reclassify himself as a ‘compassionate Conservative’ simply by standing next to his successors holds water when one re-reads instant gut reactions to his appalling policies at the point they were unveiled. In a way, the serendipitous timing of my decision to reacquaint myself with what I thought in 2016 has rekindled my contempt for a man who hoped sufficient distance would soften opinion towards him. No chance – especially not when the consequences of his irresponsible actions continue to dictate our increasingly fractious political discourse.

Anyway, the first volume of my book will be in direct competition with Dave’s in a matter of days. One will apparently retail at £25, and one will definitely be on sale at £4.99. Spend your hard-earned pennies wisely, boys and girls.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1689841532

© The Editor

PROROGUE STATE

A mate of mine recently indulged in a bit of cash-in-hand work roadying for – wait for it – ye olde Goth band Fields of the Nephilim (yes, they still exist); for those who weren’t regular readers of the music press in the mid-80s, the Nephilim were the Boyzone to The Sisters of Mercy’s Take That. Never major league players, the band nevertheless continue to attract a committed cult of hardcore followers on the road, some of whom have clearly experienced mental health issues according to the reports I received of the ones camped outside every venue on the tour. Acting as a makeshift security guard to keep said fans away from the band, my friend exchanged a few civil words with them and was a little unnerved by their stalker-like, delusional conviction they were on intimate terms with individual members; if they could just say hello, all would be well with the world.

I only thought of this because I noticed those bloody flags being waved once again outside Parliament yesterday; the brandishers of both EU and Union Jack varieties are now a seemingly permanent fixture whenever a live broadcast takes place from Westminster – and there have been plenty of those of late. The same old shouting in an attempt to drown out updates on Commons events has become a tedious accompaniment to the sight of the flags themselves. Yes, this is an issue that provokes passions (which is putting it mildly), but to be there apparently every day all day long takes either incredible stamina or simply reflects the same absence of any other purpose in life as evident in the Nephilim stalkers. At least that guy who set up a ‘peace camp’ on Parliament Square and lived in a tent there for years appeared quite chilled-out; this lot seem to be akin to noisy neighbours engaged in a never-ending back-garden barbeque.

Within the walls of the establishment they’re intent on besieging, behaviour was rather less dignified, however; and it started as it meant to go on. Confronted by the unprecedented protocol-breaking threat of the Tories planning to put forward a candidate to stand against the Speaker (still a member of their own party) at the next Election, Bercow bowed-out at last – or at least announced the date of his departure. The fact he chose 31 October was entirely in keeping with the relentless exhibitionism of his ego, eager to steal the headlines on a day he knew even the dependable vanity of his puffed-up posturing might not be enough to make him the centre of attention.

What followed Bercow’s announcement – delivered in the curious manner of an Englishman abroad trying to make himself understood to a native – was a nauseating outpouring of sentimental arse-licking listing the Speaker’s achievements in the chair, albeit praise that mysteriously overlooked recent bullying allegations or even Bercow’s membership of the horrible pro-Apartheid Monday Club back in his Young Conservative days. The standing ovation Little John received from the Opposition side of the House was in stark contrast to the sedentary reaction from the Government side, though both were equally stage-managed with all the childish petulance we’ve sadly come to expect from the tenants of this particular Palace.

But, of course, despite Bercow’s desperation to be the lead story on the bulletins, the latest instalment in the exciting adventures of Boris the Prime Minister inevitably claimed top-of-the-bill status when the time came for debate. The resignation of Amber Rudd over the weekend has been portrayed by some as a catastrophic blow to the Government, yet her presence as a prominent Remainer in the PM’s Cabinet seemed incongruous from the off, especially when there was no room for a vocal Brexiteer like Penny Mordaunt. Rudd attempted to justify her survivor status as one of the few leftovers from the Maybot’s lot by claiming she had been converted to No Deal as an option, though few were convinced; she cited the expulsion of 21 colleagues from the party as the main reason for her walking, but her tiny majority at the last General Election suggested she might not be around to hold another Ministry come the next one.

Ah, yes – the next General Election; that was the main issue under the spotlight as Monday evening seamlessly segued into Tuesday morning and the Commons paid no heed to the clock. Considering Boris had begun the day sharing a podium with the Taoiseach over in Dublin, he didn’t appear sleep-deprived when stating his case for giving the electorate the opportunity to decide. That the Prime Minister even has to plead for the right of the people to elect or evict their representatives is a farce; that a majority of those elected last time round won’t sanction that right does far more to demean the standing of honourable members than the PM proroguing Parliament. The double-standard hypocrisy of Labour, Lib Dem and SNP members in decrying the decision to suspend proceedings whilst simultaneously refusing the electorate the chance to play their democratic part is rich indeed. Fine for the plebs to participate in a bloody referendum – whether on the EU or Scottish Independence (remember – those ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunities?); but when it comes to determining the futures of their elected representatives, forget it.

The grandstanding stunts the opposition parties engaged in when the time finally came for the Speaker to relocate from one House to the other in the bizarre prorogation ceremony were further unedifying examples of their detachment from the voters. To an outsider following events live on BBC Parliament, their theatrical behaviour added to the surreal spectacle of the obscene, otherworldly bubble these people inhabit once they set foot inside that crumbling Gothic edifice whose decaying fixtures and fittings are more than an apt metaphor for the whole rotten institution. I almost felt I was witnessing a scene from the superb 1972 satirical movie on the madness of the British aristocracy, ‘The Ruling Class’, when the three wise peers solemnly sat before the gathered executive and officially announced Parliament’s slide into suspended animation. It was certainly a viewing experience straight from the imagination of Lewis Carroll, but as a portrait of Great British democracy in 2019, it kind-of said everything.

So, Party Conference season up next, and then we’re back in five weeks for the Queen’s Speech. Boris and his team will have hoped to have evaded a No Deal grilling by then, despite demands (and apparently legal requirements) for confidential correspondence on ‘Project Yellowhammer’ to be made public. The PM is insistent he can achieve a deal with the EU before Halloween, but remains adamant he won’t beg for yet another extension to the endlessly delayed deadline, regardless of the new law saying he must do so and the additional threat of a possible spell behind bars if he refuses. And even if the postponed General Election Labour have spent the last two years calling for won’t sort out a shambles entirely of Parliament’s making, it would at least give voters the chance to show the door to so many whose arrogant entitlement and superiority complexes have put us where we are.

© The Editor

TO BE CONTINUED

‘They won’t let it happen, y’know’ – so spoke a shrewd Leave-voting friend of mine two years ago, back when the farce to block Brexit was barely twelve months into its record-breaking run. I doubted her word then; I doubt it no longer. Yes, we’ve all come a long way since 2017, let alone 2016. And this week has seen such an action-packed chapter in the saga that it’s something of a challenge to issue this brief summary of events as an up-to-date bulletin because it’ll probably be superseded by other events by the time it appears. From what I can work out at the moment, Boris Johnson has offered the Labour Party precisely what they most desire on a plate – but will they take the bait? This is like Tom popping a slab of cheese before Jerry’s hole-in-the-wall, and Jerry wrestling with the demands of his appetite, knowing from the off that his feline nemesis has set yet another trap.

So, the most vocal Second Referendum proponents won’t consent to a genuine ‘People’s Vote’ after all; no, they won’t let the electorate have their say if there’s a risk that by doing so they themselves might lose their seats. Jo Swinson has gone on the record that she won’t accept the result of another referendum if it ends up being the result she doesn’t want, anyway, so why should we be surprised by this latest surreal development? The Fixed Term Parliaments Act, one more contributing factor towards David Cameron’s candidacy as the Prime Minister with the most damaging legacy on record, is an irrelevant encumbrance to getting things done that should have been repealed the second the Coalition ceased to be. It is entirely responsible for yet another impasse when the loss of the Government’s tiny numerical advantage over its opponents demands the traditional resolution.

We now have the bizarre situation whereby a Prime Minister without a majority has to go cap-in-hand to a hostile Commons, seeking permission to dissolve Parliament – and being refused permission. Of course, Boris’s motivation for doing so is not quite black-and-white (to put it mildly); but the power to call a General Election without recourse to Parliament should never have been stripped from the resident of No.10 – especially when we currently have a Parliament that cannot agree on anything. Well, a majority can agree on something, and that will be demonstrated when the bill to block a no-deal Brexit is fast-tracked through the tortoise marathon of the Lords.

Another episode in this gripping chapter came with the 21 expulsions from the Conservative Party – numerous grandees (including the Father of the House himself) and recent Cabinet Ministers all deselected overnight, rebranded as Independents and prevented from standing as Tories ever again; never before has rebellion against one’s own party been so ruthlessly punished. Boris’s own brother Jo, a serial quitter – how many times has he walked out of the Cabinet now? – has resigned as an MP today, adding further minus marks against this administration’s numbers; the PM has already experienced the choreographed stunt of a dishonourable member crossing the floor of the House in the middle of a speech this week; and while the instant dismissal of the 21 rebels may have been a promised reprisal the Prime Minister was faced with no alternative but to carry out, the authority to govern based on a greater proportion of seats has been completely obliterated now. No Government in living memory has ever been so swiftly diminished, and yet for the electorate to be denied their say as a consequence seems to be one more example of the elected’s blatant contempt for those who elect them.

The sole beneficiaries of the crises eating away at the heart of both the Conservative and Labour Parties are the Lib Dems; having gained a Tory this week, Swinson and her anti-democratic cronies have now secured a former Labour member, albeit one who took the Umunna route from Labour to TIG to CHUK to Lib Dem. Luciana Berger famously quit Labour after well-documented and sustained anti-Semitic abuse, so her decision to walk seemed to be more understandable and worthy of sympathy than some of the colleagues who followed in her wake. But it appears the Lib Dems are now very much the Battersea Dog’s Home for MPs unloved and unwanted by their own parties; the fact that many of them represent Leave-voting constituencies is pure coincidence, of course. No wonder Jo Swinson is so against a snap Election when the sudden boost to her number of seats could be wiped out all over again if the polling stations are reopened for business tomorrow.

Justine Greening, Education Secretary for a while under Theresa May, announced a couple of days ago that she won’t be defecting to the Lib Dems, but will stand down altogether; possibly jumping before she’s pushed, yes, though it’s a sign of these turbulent times that Tory MPs who would previously have been regarded as future prospects with plenty more to offer are deciding their party is no longer conducive to their worldview. The cliché often trotted out about the Conservative or Labour Parties being ‘broad churches’ capable of encompassing a variety of opinions appears to be utterly redundant now.

Reluctant as I am to agree with the Lord of Darkness Peter Mandelson, I actually thought he had a fair point when he reminded people how Tony Blair never expelled Jeremy Corbyn from the Labour Party despite Jezza’s serial rebellions when in his backbench comfort zone; today, whether Labour or Tory, so narrow has the focus of the leadership and the leader’s advisers become that any deviation from the script will not be tolerated. In the end, it is the two parties themselves – whether represented by Labour’s Momentum takeover or the Tories’ capitulation to the ERG – that will suffer as both begin to resemble single issue pressure groups rather than wide collectives capable of addressing all the problems that need sorting instead of just the ones reflecting the interests of the elites at the pinnacle of the pyramid.

So, Boris will apparently put the call for a General Election to the Commons again on Monday, following the anticipated assimilation into law of the bill to block a no-deal Brexit. The majority of Labour’s leading lights want to hold back an Election until yet one more extension to D-Day has been secured, thus preventing Boris from repealing no-deal legislation. That’s what they say, anyway. More than three years after the event, we are where we are because they actually don’t want to do what the majority told them to do; and for all her faults, at least Jo Swinson is being honest. Maybe they won’t let it happen, y’know.

© The Editor

THE DAY WAR BROKE OUT

There have been a lot of Twitter knickers in a twist over the past 48 hours; then again, it’s hard to think of a time when there aren’t. The globe’s favourite social media platform for the outraged and offended has rarely observed such a thing as a Sabbath, and the polarising political climate in Britain since June 2016 has seen Twitter established as the battleground that never sleeps. Every development instigated by one side of the Brexit divide is fought at its most furious by the other not in the Commons, but in cyberspace; and after Tuesday’s coming together of Remainer MPs – despite the amusingly delusional Jo Swinson’s refusal to accept the candidacy of the Leader of the Opposition in the event of one unelected PM usurping another – the bursting of their bubble by Boris 24 hours later sent melodramatic hysteria into unmissable overdrive.

First of all, there was Brexiteer outrage at Remainer attempts to sabotage democracy as an effective Second Referendum/Revoke Article 50/Scrap Brexit coalition belatedly emerged; then there was Remainer outrage at Brexiteer attempts to sabotage democracy by proroguing Parliament and denying debate on the issue until there’s not enough time left to stop the No Deal Apocalypse. Both opposing parties are claiming ‘The People’ as their own, even though the people in question are merely those on their respective sides of the barricades; those who voted the wrong way can go whistle or at least submit to a course of re-education to understand why they’re in the wrong and the other side is in the right. Over three years on, and Cameron’s toxic legacy is more divisive than ever; indeed, it’s hard to see any potential resolution between the warring factions at all. A shame Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness are no longer around to bring everyone together.

However, thank God so many of the entitled egomaniacs fuelling the divisions remain oblivious to how stupid (and inadvertently entertaining) they are. Paul Mason played a manic street preacher preaching to the converted in a video aired on ‘Newsnight’ before appearing in the studio, predicting Poll Tax Riots-style civil unrest as the inevitable outcome if his side don’t get their way; and this after his side have constantly decried the other side for intimidating Remainer MPs outside Parliament, as though the other side’s notion of expressing their democratic right to protest somehow lacks the ‘purity’ of his side’s right to do likewise. To emphasise his working-class credentials, Mason invoked the fighting spirit of his hometown Leigh, conveniently overlooking the fact that the Metropolitan Borough of Wigan (to which Leigh belongs) voted 63.9 % Leave in 2016; but maybe Leigh has suffered the same post-industrial dismissal by the political class – the one that Mason’s attitude upholds – as neighbouring Bury; no wonder such places remain defined by what little they have left, like their football clubs…

John McDonnell, a man whose approach to taking on his opponents is juvenile at best, was also on hand with the microphone at the impromptu alfresco shindig in the wake of yesterday’s Downing Street announcement, as was Diane ‘abacus’ Abbott and Keir ‘Plastic Man’ Starmer. Nobody present could be left in any doubt that those who have facilitated the longest unbroken Parliamentary session since the Civil War are outraged. Such outrage was noticeably absent from the Remoaner camp when an electronically-tagged convicted criminal who just happened to be a Labour MP played her part in disrupting democracy by casting the decisive vote a few months ago, of course, and what of Mr Speaker himself? Little John has hardly been a bastion of impartiality, has he? But it’s okay ‘cause he’s one of us. The hypocrisy is hilarious.

I should imagine the PM probably had the proroguing plan ready and waiting for the right moment and he certainly seems to have timed it to perfection, ensuring Brenda’s seal of approval just one day after the parade of smug, holier-than-thou signatories to Jezza’s proposal queued-up on camera to sing from a shared hymn sheet at last, united in their righteous conviction. When the other side try to enact the will of the majority, that other side divides; when they try to enact the will of the minority, they unify; when the other side tries to prevent those responsible for blocking a democratic decision for three years from continuing to do so, it’s a coup; when they attempt to put together a fantasy ‘Caretaker Government’ of hand-picked losers for the purpose of reversing that democratic decision, they’re saving the nation.

It’s handy that we’re on the eve of the 80th anniversary of Mr Chamberlain’s declaration of war, for the tireless and tedious evocation of ‘fighting them on the beaches’ by Brexiteers not even old enough to have been Mods or Rockers in the 60s is a baton that has now been grabbed by the other side. After rightly ridiculing the irrelevant summoning of the Dunkirk Spirit by their opponents, some prominent Remoaners have once again decided when they do the same thing it’s not the same at all. ‘You will not destroy the freedoms my grandfather fought two world wars to defend’ tweeted Hugh Grant – not from beaches littered with bodies; ‘Weep for Britain. A sick, cynical and brutal and horribly dangerous coup d’état’ added Stephen Fry – not from a dead and long-abandoned Lancashire mill-town.

Perish the thought that politicians might be motivated by cynical self-interest, of course; the possibility Boris Johnson could be seeking to hold onto his job via his recent actions is as appalling as the possibility Jeremy Corbyn could be seeking to steal it via his recent actions. No, as ever, the moral high-ground is always with whichever guys you have decided are the good ones.

A three-week suspension of Parliament by the PM is standard procedure in the early autumn, allowing the party conference season to progress free from its star performers being recalled to Westminster for an emergency vote; adding a couple of weeks to the usual break is not really surprising considering the circumstances. Neither is the fact that by doing so, all those who endorse the decision are going back on what they’d said on the subject just a few weeks or tweets ago. They’re being led by Boris Johnson, don’t forget. After imagining they’d pulled a master-stroke in managing to temporarily gather all No Deal opponents under one united umbrella, the Remainer brigade are now confronted by the inevitable fact they have even less time to finally kill a democratic mandate than they thought. No wonder they’re upset. They’re going to take it to the streets, apparently; I wonder if Jon Snow will be on hand to count the number of non-white faces when they do.

© The Editor

NOT MY PRIME MINISTER

As someone currently in the thick of manic creative hysteria – don’t think that’s a recognised syndrome, but it should be – I can sympathise with the increasingly-detached-from-reality mania afflicting the Remainer majority at Westminster; well, to a point. My own experience is of hammering at this bloody keyboard for hours at a time, desperately trying to transcribe the relentless flow of words pouring out of my fevered head with the same speed they appear in it; even when I take a break and try to unwind with brown bread and eggs (hearty meals not being conducive to the condition), I have a notepad beside me, for I cannot switch off. I’ve been like this for about a fortnight now, and it’s exhausting as well as mind-altering. You really do inhabit a world of your own making, one in which normal rules do not apply. It would seem I’m not alone.

Over the last three years, attempts to overturn the result of the 2016 EU Referendum by the losing side have gone from street protest to Project Fear to Second Referendum to where we are now, a new video game called ‘Fantasy Prime Minister’. In this, the player gets to choose which MP he or she would rather have in 10 Downing Street than the man who’s been there for less than a month. The player can pick from the incumbent Leader of the Opposition ol’ Jezza or the Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson; they can pick the sole Green in the team, Caroline Lucas; or they can even opt for a couple of veterans who were never elected leaders of their respective parties, Ken Clarke and Harriet Harman. Once a prospective PM is selected, the player then engages in a series of gripping constitutional crises, battling for the right to replace an unelected premier with an unelected premier.

In order to derail what appears to be a determined No Deal ‘crashing out’ (© ‘Newsnight’) policy being pursued by Boris and the Brexiteers (great Merseybeat band name), Remainers have this week scaled unprecedented peaks of foaming-at-the-mouth fantasies they seriously believe will rescue us from ruin in the event of Boris being defeated in an expected no confidence vote. A Government of National Unity is one phrase we’ve heard a lot, but a country as disunited as ours currently is means such an administration would require representation from both ends of the great divide to truly unify; and nobody proposing the National Unity concept is proposing that. A Government of Remain Unity would be more accurate. When Caroline Lucas put forward her amusing idea of a middle-class ‘mumsnet’ Cabinet led by her in full headmistress mode, the only issue her side of the divide took with the notion was the absence of ‘women of colour’ from the line-up. The mind-boggling undemocratic ludicrousness of the proposal wasn’t a problem, apparently.

National Unity was much-discussed in the inconclusive wake of the February 1974 General Election, but Ted Heath’s proposals for coalition with Jeremy Thorpe’s Liberals floundered and Harold Wilson led Labour back to power with a minority administration. An actual peacetime ‘National’ Government comprising members from all three major parties had, of course, existed from 1931 until the outbreak of the Second World War; and though initially led by Labour’s Ramsay MacDonald, it was overwhelmingly Tory-dominated, as would’ve been any Heath/Thorpe coalition in 1974 and as indeed was the coalition led by Lloyd George in the aftermath of WWI. We don’t even have to go back that far to discern the imbalance in most coalition administrations and how the ultimate aim is more a case of the largest party keeping out the opposition rather than any noble aspiration to save the nation.

Jeremy Corbyn’s brainwave of playing the part of a caretaker PM to prevent the Halloween deadline coming to pass before then calling a General Election which he assumes he will win is bonkers, but at least he is the leader of the second largest party in the Commons. He is, however, dependent on disgruntled Tory backbenchers to achieve this aim, and while Enoch Powell may have advocated voting Labour in 1974, today’s Remainer Tories feel this is a rebellion too far.

Anyway, Jezza’s own ambiguous stance on the EU has been a hindrance to any successful exploitation by Labour of the Conservative divisions over the issue, and this clearly rankles with Jo Swinson, who doesn’t seem keen on the prospect of Corbyn at No.10, even if it means another Brexit delay is more likely. But then, the Lib Dem leader has been quite brazen that it’s her intention to prevent Brexit altogether, so merely kicking the date we leave back into the long grass yet again just isn’t good enough. The notion of giving the gig to Clarke or Harman is seen by Swinson as a genuinely realistic alternative to Corbyn. I mean, yes, good old Ken is the Father of the House and everyone’s favourite jazz-loving, hush puppy-wearing Tory uncle; but get real. As for Ms Harperson – come on!

But this is where we are. So intense is the panic amongst the hardcore Remainers now, nothing is deemed too fantastical. Caroline Lucas included Nicola Sturgeon in her fantasy Cabinet, and the First Minister isn’t even an MP. Why stop at nominating a prominent Remainer who at least happens to be a politician (albeit in the wrong parliament), though? Why not send out the call to Gary Lineker? Brian Cox? Greta Thunberg? And, no doubt, Chuka Umunna would be up for it too – how many parties has he been a member of this year? Anyway, this dream Guardian Government would revoke Article 50, reverse the Referendum result and deliver the same kind of ‘fuck you’ to 17 million members of the electorate as they themselves received three years ago. Lest we forget, the electorate will have no say at all – just as they didn’t when Boris succeeded Theresa. Why let such unnecessary annoyances like the electorate get in the way of democracy, though?

Considering we’re marking the 200th anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre this week – an event regarded as a watershed moment on the long and winding road to universal suffrage – it’s ironic that we’re currently watching politicians attempting to seize power (or hold onto it) without any involvement from voters at all. With the Government reduced to a majority of one, of course, it’s inevitable we’ll see a General Election before the scheduled date of 2022, probably before the end of this year; but what happens in the months leading up to the hustings appears to be being scripted by Chris Morris. I might regard myself as a bit fanatical at the moment – and if anyone could observe me during this breathless creative process they’d probably conclude I’m a bit ‘frazzled’. Compared to that lot down Westminster way, however, I feel confident I’d receive a clean bill of health. If I could get an appointment at my local GPs surgery, of course. Which, needless to say, I can’t. Welcome to 2019. It’s mad.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1082364096

© The Editor

THE FEAR

I remember a first date once, which – though an encouraging start – turned out to be merely the prologue to another example of why my being one half of ‘a lovely couple’ is the relationship equivalent of a coalition government, i.e. an exceedingly rare aberration destined to end in tears. But I was younger at the time, so can be excused. And, anyway, she was a fascinating woman who worked for a charity and was about to jet off on a related business trip to New York. A second date was definitely on the cards, but the Manhattan outing would put it back a week or two. I resolved to pick up some kind of quirky guide to the Big Apple for her and pass it on before she packed her suitcase.

One topic of conversation that came up during the evening was a shared recollection of early 80s nuclear paranoia. She and I recalled the collective fear of those years, when pre-apocalypse tension infected the culture and seemed doomed to become a self-fulfilling prophesy; it was the age of Greenham Common, ‘Threads’ and ‘Two Tribes’. My date and I agreed such a bleak atmosphere genuinely (and thankfully) appeared to be a thing of the past – at least where the west was concerned. And when, you may ask, did this rather pleasant exchange take place? Why, to be exact, September 10 2001.

I was in a second-hand bookshop the following day when, having located just the kind of offbeat volume I’d intended, I heard something strange was happening at the World Trade Centre; the shopkeeper shrewdly informed me a fire in one of the twin towers had sent it crashing to the ground only after I’d bought the bloody book. Of course, it was no use to its recipient, as the trip to New York was cancelled and the state of global emergency she and I had perhaps unwisely relegated to the past tense suddenly re-emerged uglier than ever in the here and now. And, although the panic 9/11 unleashed unsurprisingly lasted longer than my dalliance with this particular lady, the numerous offshoots of the September 11 attacks that are still with us have sadly become part of the cultural wallpaper.

I don’t know if it’s fair to say that those of us who were transfixed by the grotesque sights on our TV screens 18 years ago have gradually become immune to the horrors embodied in the events of 9/11 since. But exposure to subsequent wars and terrorist atrocities with their roots in that day could possibly have engendered a subliminal immunity so that what initially provoked genuine fear of a potential WWIII scenario is now met with shoulder-shrugging weariness. During the recent blanket coverage of the first Moon Landing’s 50th anniversary, one overlooked fact left out of the celebrations was that the viewing public of the time became bored with the great adventure so quickly that the only other Apollo mission anyone ever recalls is 13 – and that crew never even made it to their destination. When an achievement as immense as men on the moon can induce a jaded response as one lunar landing rapidly follows another, perhaps the repeated detonation of bombs in a crowded environment fails to maintain the level of shock such an appalling act warrants simply because it’s just one more atrocity in a very long line of them.

The world is far more intricately connected today than it was in 2001 – a period when social media was in its infancy and traditional mediums still had a monopoly on the way we consumed news. Indeed, the only occasion in which I can ever remember the newspaper racks being emptied in my local supermarket was the day after 9/11; everybody had clearly purchased a paper as a souvenir, just as their fathers (or grandfathers) had when Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. It’s hard to imagine that happening with an equivalent incident today. I suspect many a website or search engine would crash, but there’d still be plenty of Fleet Street’s finest waiting to find a home. Then again, how long would shock linger now? Long enough for that interminable 24 hours between a story breaking and it making the physical front page? Probably not. The nature of how news is transmitted to the masses has changed so much since 2001 that the manner of its digestion has changed too – as has its presentation, presumably in order to hold the diminishing attention span of the reader. Often it seems that stories which don’t really deserve the dramatic headline ape the major event so that each and every item battling for space has to be given the full (to use a quaint old phrase) ‘stop press’ treatment.

It could be a result of living through two traumatic post-9/11 decades or it could simply be my age, but I find I don’t lose sleep over any of the news stories designed to provoke panic nowadays. I feel almost ashamed to admit it, for I realise I’m supposed to be in a perpetual state of fear – fear of climate change or Brexit or knife-crime or the far-right or the far-left or Boris or Corbyn or Trump or Putin or China or North Korea or No Deal…and yet, I’m not. However, that’s not to say I don’t care; caring about an important issue and (on occasion) being passionate about a few is listed on my membership card of the human race – and I hope that’s been evident in some of the things I’ve written here. But I don’t worry about today’s shock-horror stories, certainly not the level of worry I’m constantly told I should feel. Then again, being told how I should feel is something that media in all its current incarnations has come to specialise in.

Media of the social variety is regularly – and often rightly – castigated for its ‘echo chamber’ tendencies, and (should I wish to do so) I can certainly think of an easy way in which I could severely deplete my friends list on Facebook overnight, simply by expressing an opinion I’m not supposed to possess, let alone express. But hasn’t the new media merely learnt the lessons of the old media? Yes, Facebook and Twitter reflect users’ already established opinions back at them, confirming biases and upholding prejudices whilst discouraging discovering different perspectives; but then again, so do the Daily Mail and the Guardian. This trend could also be responsible for the current vogue in looking at an unfavourable event from a favourable angle in order to make it more palatable to those it upsets.

The remarkable success of the Brexit Party in the recent European Elections was countered by its opponents combining the split Remain vote as spurious evidence that Nigel’s barmy army didn’t actually win after all. The same tactic was applied in the wake of the Brecon & Radnorshire by-election by the other side, showing how putting the Tory and Brexit Party votes together somehow proved the Lib Dems were actually the losers. The fact that none of these combinations actually appeared as such on the ballot paper is regarded as almost immaterial when it comes to a ‘moral victory’ – or it could just be that this curious development proves how the Remainer/Leaver divide now counts for more than traditional party allegiances.

I considered using Nick Ross’s sage advice as the title for this post, and then remembered I’d used it as the title of an obituary for ‘Crimewatch’ I penned on here whenever it was that the show ended its lengthy run. As a matter of fact, I do have nightmares – constantly; and they’re horrible, far worse than any I had as a kid. But they’re all of a domestic nature, nocturnal kitchen-sink dramas featuring those I have loved and those I have lost; they don’t contain any bogeymen that dominate national or international headlines at all. Perhaps it’s because I’m in a strange place that I don’t scare easily anymore – at least when I’m awake.

© The Editor

DON’T PANIC!

‘…since the war’ was once the most overused barometer for measuring a crisis; you couldn’t avoid it when I was a kid in the 1970s – though considering anyone older than, say, 35 back then would have had a first-hand memory of some aspect of the conflict, perhaps it’s no surprise it was the suffix of choice. Watch archive BBC coverage of the February 1974 General Election and the phrase peppers the programme; but one has a real sense of what prompted its recurrence when even revellers in Trafalgar Square watching the results come in are forced to do so in the dark. ‘The gravest economic crisis since the war’ is the context, though one wonders how many times that particular expression had been uttered by opportunistic politicians in the 29 years following VE Day.

The winter of 1946/47 produced literally the gravest economic crisis since the war – or at least the first such one experienced. Retrospectively relegated to a footnote when the far more celebrated 1962/63 cold spell is recalled, the chill that descended upon the British Isles in January 1947 was equally devastating. In some respects, its impact was even greater than the winter of 16 years later in that it stretched the limited resources of a country already struggling through a protracted recovery from the battering it had taken on the home front. The Arctic temperatures wiped out a quarter of the nation’s sheep, decimated up to 20% of crops and were responsible for industrial production falling 10%. The standing of Attlee’s Labour Government plummeted as fuel stocks and food supplies dwindled in the big freeze, with imposed emergency measures having a seismic effect on morale; the floods that came with the March thaw were an additional blow to a beleaguered Britain.

When another Labour Government 20 years later dithered and delayed before belatedly devaluing the pound – at a time when such an action was viewed as a national humiliation – the chaos that cost Jim Callaghan his tenancy of No.11 Downing Street and fatally damaged the Wilson administration was regarded as…’the gravest economic crisis since the war’. Yet Wilson’s immediate Conservative successor came a cropper within three-and-a-half years of redecorating No.10, as quadrupling oil prices exploited by the key-holders of the country’s prime fuel supply – the miners – panicked Ted Heath into switching out the lights and passing round the candles. At the time, I remember asking my dad why the Germans were richer than us when they’d lost the war. This was when I found out parents don’t have all the answers.

Where Heath’s Tories had failed, Labour – under Wilson and then Callaghan – soldiered on in impossible circumstances, but still had to suffer the shame of crawling cap-in-hand to the IMF in 1976. Less than three years later, the unions ‘Sunny Jim’ had always been able to depend upon bit the hand that fed them because they had acquired the appetite of Oliver Twist. Another terrible winter – this time of Discontent – handed electoral victory to Margaret Thatcher as we once again endured ‘the gravest economic crisis since the war’. I have vivid memories of that winter, and as even the all-powerful omnipotence of television joined the catalogue of public services falling into stasis like donkey-jacketed dominos, the palpable feeling of imminent collapse made an impression that I’ve tended to view subsequent crises through the prism of. As a consequence, they rarely measure up and I tend to take Lance Corporal Jones’s advice.

It was almost 30 years before we encountered a comparable crisis – though even the Credit Crunch and the severe Austerity measures introduced by the Coalition in 2010 didn’t induce the same sense of being on the brink as 1978/79 did. The situation may have claimed the scalp of yet another Labour Government and exacerbated the schism between the haves and the have-nots, but the 2010-2015 Con-Dem regime acted like a ruthless receiver dividing the assets of an insolvent company. The climate was not one of the country being ungovernable or out of control. It took the unexpected outcome of a certain unnecessary referendum to finally return us to the state of existential emergency that provoked the return of ‘…since the war’.

It’s interesting that the most hysterical reactions to the result of the 2016 EU Referendum emanated largely from those born and raised in the 1990s and early 2000s, a period now regarded as a rare oasis of economic calm – strong and stable, one might say. And that’s not merely the general public; many children of Blair whose degrees in Media Studies facilitated their rises through the broadcasting and print medium ranks were similarly green when it came to a crisis and responded to a scenario for which they hadn’t been prepared in a fittingly OTT manner that has spiralled out of all proportion over the last three years. ‘Crashing out of the EU’, ‘stolen my future’ and ‘staring into the abyss’ have joined ‘…since the war’ in the Remainer lexicon; but WWII has also been revived as an unlikely yardstick by the other side, with ‘Dunkirk Spirit’ and misplaced allusions to Churchill making a comeback, even though (unlike the 1970s) they are being evoked by those who may as well talk of Trafalgar or Waterloo for all the relevance they have to their own experience.

Maybe a generation or two subconsciously yearned to have their malnourished mettle tested by a crisis. There’s an almost masochistic relish in fantasising about apocalyptic scenarios of the kind George Osborne forecasted on the eve of the Referendum, and the prospect of No Deal seems to have ‘turbo-charged’ (© every f***ing Boris Minister) the nightmarish imagery, fetishising the vision of empty supermarket shelves, bare chemist’s cupboards, martial law and primeval anarchy. Perhaps sitting through more zombie movies and games than is advisable has convinced some too young to know any better that a crisis only has the one outcome.

However, if history has taught us anything it is that crises are no more permanent than their polar opposite; no boom without bust and vice-versa. The wars Brits have been engaged in since 1945 have all taken place in far-flung locations, giving non-combatants an abstract perspective on conflict that doctored news reports from distant war-zones seem to have played their part in. Domestic economic crises, on the other hand, impinge upon our lives in ways that personalise their offensiveness and amplify their impact. But the genuine crisis in so many of our public services, for example, has bugger-all to do with Brexit; they’re in a bad way because they’ve been under-funded for decades, and the blame is with the Remainer village of Westminster, not the rest of Brexit Britain.

When it comes to a crisis, it’s probably best not to hang on every word of that metropolitan Mother Shipton, Emily Maitlis – the Remoaner Lord Haw-Haw issuing proclamations of doom ‘n’ gloom on a nightly basis. Many of us have experienced personal crises that have hit us at times when the nation had allegedly never had it so good, and the state of the nation has had no bearing on mine at all; the damage was restricted to the smallest of circles rather than the widest of canvasses. External events might occasionally contribute to the picture, but whether we find ourselves in the Promised Land or downtown Dystopia on 1 November, the nation will keep buggering on and so will we. However bad it gets, it then gets better – always.

© The Editor

CAREFUL WITH THAT AXE, BORIS

It’s funny, but 2016 already seems like a long time ago – much further back in time than a mere three years, anyway. Yesterday, I skimmed through a few posts on here from the moment at which Theresa May moved into Downing Street and there was mention of her mini-‘Night of The Long Knives’ reshuffle. I can barely even remember that now, but there it was in black-and-white, describing how the post-Cameron clear-out of the Cabinet saw P45s handed to the likes of Dave stalwarts Osborne, Gove, Morgan and Whittingdale; yes, the last name has all-but vanished from memory, though I seem to recall talk of liaisons with an ‘escort’ making the headlines at some point. Perhaps the fact that Mrs May fired a few Ministers when she grabbed the poisoned chalice has been utterly forgotten due to the record number that left of their own volition during her brief tenure in office; some of them have now come in from the cold at the behest of Boris.

Following the now-customary exercise in sentimental insincerity that accompanies the farewell performance of a Prime Minister at the dispatch-box, Mrs May was swiftly dispatched to the past tense by her successor – as were most of her Ministers. The speed that the new PM employed was undoubtedly necessary; after all, he only has 99 days to keep his most important promise; but the scale of the ‘massacre’ perhaps reflected the urgency he exhibited during his rapid-fire inaugural address before the press yesterday afternoon. He doesn’t have the luxury of test-driving Ministers with L-plates; it makes much more sense to assemble essentially the same ‘Team Boris’ he would have put together three years ago had his anticipated coronation not been postponed and he’d had a little more breathing space than he has now.

Some of the most inflexible Remainers – Hammond, Stewart, Lidington, Gauke – walked the plank voluntarily, whereas Jeremy (he’s an entrepreneur) Hunt decided to jump rather than face demotion. All would have been obstructive obstacles to Johnson’s intentions, yet a notable Brexiteer such as Penny Mordaunt has also been shown the door, presumably because she supported Hunt in the leadership contest. One of the first to sign-up to the Leave side in 2016, the incomparably incompetent Chris Grayling, has gone too – though I was quite looking forward to seeing which Ministry he’d be let loose on next. Plenty of Ministers whose names are so forgettable that their faces are impossible to evoke have been axed as well, the kind like Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley or Culture and Digital Minister Jeremy Wright (no, me neither), whose lack of interest in (or qualification for) the posts they were awarded mirrored the cluelessness of the woman who awarded them.

Back in March, the avalanche of resignations left 15 ministerial posts vacant; it began to look like either nobody wanted them or the dearth of talent within the Conservative Party meant there was nobody to fill them. The return of Amber Rudd to the Cabinet, a year after the former Home Secretary had been forced to carry the can for Windrush policies instigated by Mrs May, highlighted the PM’s desperation. Now Rudd is one of the few survivors of the cull, having shrewdly amended her opposition to the No Deal option. She breathes a sigh of relief alongside Sajid Javid, Michael Gove, Liz Truss and Matt Hancock. Amongst the notable returning ex-Ministers are Priti Patel, Dominic Raab, Andrea Leadsom, Esther McVey, Nicky Morgan, Theresa Villiers, and that crafty Gavin Williamson, creeping back in with the stealth of a certain tarantula after a mere 84 days in the sin bin. Brother Jo is back too.

Swapping the Home Office for the Treasury is not the most optimistic of moves when one is made aware of Sajid Javid’s somewhat questionable grasp of figures. In his senior managerial role at Deutsche Bank before he entered Parliament, Javid enthusiastically embraced a tax-avoidance scheme that resulted in a courtroom defeat when it was exposed; as Business Secretary, he ended the Business Growth Service, a much-needed and profitable sponsor of small businesses; and he also gave the green light to the sale of Tata Steel’s Scunthorpe branch to a company with a disastrous track record, a company which upheld its reputation with the swift slide of British Steel into administration. Let’s hope he remembers to pack his calculator when he moves in to No.11. Like the resurfacing of Priti Patel’s previous (?) views on capital punishment now that she has been promoted to Home Secretary, Javid’s present will inevitably be viewed through the prism of his past if he buggers it up.

Ironically, for all the talk of the hard right and its rigid racial/social elitism having seized control, some have pointed out the accidental ‘multicultural mix’ at the very tip of the Tory iceberg. On Twitter, journalist Tom Harwood asked if this was the most ‘Woke’ the four great offices of state have ever been – ‘The grandson of a Turkish Muslim, the daughter of Indian-Ugandan Hindus, the son of Pakistani Muslims, and the son of a Jewish Czech refugee.’ Or is this backdoor diversity, achieved organically and without any inclusivity committees, shortlists and affirmative-action initiatives? Of course, the ethnic origins of those mentioned should be irrelevant to the skills required for the job, but it’s not difficult to imagine how the Labour Party would have made something of a song-and-dance about having a ‘Diversity Cabinet’ and milked it to the max.

The Ministers May fired in 2016 were expected to be troublesome from the backbenches, though Mrs May found those actually in the Cabinet (certainly after 2017) far more troublesome than the odd Rees-Mogg outside the tent pissing-in. But May’s concerns were initially eased by the fact she inherited a working majority from her predecessor; the same does not apply for Boris. If the Tories lose the upcoming Brecon and Radnorshire by-election to the Lib Dems, Johnson’s majority will be reduced to two. There’s no doubt the absence of time before a certain deadline has prompted the new PM into acting with such ruthless swiftness, but I suspect a motion of no confidence emanating from a Labour-Lib Dem alliance will only come when/if a package from Brussels sprouts before the Commons. However, if the Tory ‘rebels’ will be sufficiently irked at losing their jobs and sufficiently dedicated to the Remain agenda to vote down their own Government, the General Election to follow could well make real their recurring nightmare of a Corbyn administration. We shall see.

This week’s heat-wave may not last as long as the dry spell that made last summer so uncomfortable for those of us averse to a tropical climate, but I’ve a feeling the temperature will remain extremely high in Westminster until the autumn. Boris knows he has to deliver and deliver fast. If he’s to avoid presiding over the shortest tenure at No.10 in history, he needs to keep the knotted hanky mothballed and work through the holiday season. He’s made a start.

© The Editor

OH, WHAT A LOVELY WAR!

For the Tories, one could opt for 1945, 1966 or 1974 – and especially that 13-year period from 1997-2010 when a succession of pitiful team captains were dispatched to the crease to chase an impossible target. For Labour, the options are myriad: 1959, 1970, 1979, 1983 etc….all the way up to 2015. Yes, the two political parties that have dictated the destiny of the nation over the last century have each known their fallow periods; the scales have risen and fallen in favour of one or the other throughout the past 100 years, sometimes the victor dependent on alliances with third parties, sometimes going it alone with the cushion of a landslide – though one could argue only Clement Attlee and Margaret Thatcher really took advantage of the numbers and went for it.

What makes the here and now so strangely incompatible with the manual is that the traditional narrative of one party soaring in strength whilst the other struggles in shambolic disarray isn’t happening. Instead, the twin titans that have bestrode the British political landscape for longer than any of us has been alive are crammed into the one canoe, zooming up shit creek, having misplaced the proverbial paddle. It’s quite a spectacle. We’re used to the usual internal evisceration that occurs in the wake of a party crashing at the ballot-box; it generally takes half-a-decade before the right man or woman emerges to put the house in order and make the losers electable again; by the time this happens, the cracks that the party in office papered-over with victory are beginning to be exposed to the light, and defeat awaits before the game of pass-the-parcel resumes. That’s what we’re used to.

To see both the Conservative Party and the Labour Party going through their crises in-synch is bizarre because it’s so unprecedented. The Tories’ travails stretch back further than Brexit – Cameron’s Blaire-lite approach to social issues (usually involving the word ‘gay’) didn’t play well with the retired admirals and blue-rinsed battleaxes out in the Shires – but any grumblings were subdued by the sight of ‘Red’ Ed sitting on the opposition benches. The spectre of Europe, however – the bad smell that just won’t leave the golf-club – was bound to resurface as an open fire for dissidents to cluster around, and Dave appeased them with a bright idea largely devised to stem the flow in the direction of UKIP. It not only cost Cameron his job; it may well yet obliterate his party.

As for Labour, the lurch to the left that came with Corbyn and his Marxist groupies was accompanied by a successful recruitment drive that his acolytes were fond of quoting whenever Jezza’s unpopularity beyond the student debating society was mentioned. The problem with marketing Jeremy Corbyn as a fashion accessory was that fashion has a habit of dating quickly, and it seems Jezza-mania is already ‘so last year’ – or, to be more accurate, the year before. It probably peaked with the defeat that was almost sold as a victory in the 2017 General Election; the party performed far better than the polls suggested, but not good enough.

For a career backbencher like Corbyn, opposition is his comfort zone; it was even when Labour were in power, as his voting record testifies; and he has constantly struggled to balance the entrenched backbench mindset with the necessary compromise of leadership. When the impetus appeared to be with Remain during the 2016 Referendum campaign, Jezza’s invisibility underlined his difficulty in marrying his strong anti-Brussels stance to the pro-EU sentiments of his disciples. Stick with the latter and No.10 could beckon; but doing so would be a betrayal of the principles studied at the feet of that late, great guru and Leave sage Tony Benn.

This perennial conflict has arisen once again as the Brexit saga has grown more polarising over the past twelve months, and the humiliating ineptitude of Labour to capitalise on the Tories’ civil war by failing to shoot ahead in the polls again suggests we’ve passed peak Jezza-mania. The rapacious appetite for power so shamelessly embodied in the loathsome person of Tom Watson has focused on the Remain cause as a means of taking back control – but from whom? The Lib Dems? That’s who Labour’s U-turn on backing a second referendum has been really prompted by, not the Government.

Anti-Semitism seems to be to Labour what Europe is to the Tories, albeit something that’s arguably even more difficult to deal with considering the inability of so many in the party to distinguish between the Jewish people and the Jewish State. In this respect, Europe for Labour could be viewed as a convenient smokescreen that also enables the likes of Watson, Starmer and Thornberry to exploit the issue as the best way to reconnect with the electorate when the messiah appears incapable of progressing beyond his core fan-base. The main drawback to this master-plan – endorsed by the unions (did their potentate McCluskey even sanction a ballot?) – is that it makes the same mistake as that opportunistic, clueless chameleon Umunna in assuming just because Londoners with the loudest voices wave the EU flag, they somehow represent the entire electorate.

How, one wonders, can Labour ever reconcile their metropolitan mindset with those loyal provincial supporters whose patience has been so severely tested over the last three years by allowing Bunter to hog the headlines and lead the party towards oblivion even quicker than the man whose job he’s clearly after? The delusional belief of Labour’s centrists that there is a vast pool of floating voters just waiting for the chance to flock around their wing of the party was embarrassingly exposed as a fallacy when that egotistical coalition of Labour and Tory defectors (what were they called again?) were utterly crushed in the European Elections. At a moment when Labour needs all the friends it can get as the Tories are imploding before our very eyes, the party is losing those whose loyalty saw Labour through many a lean decade. The Government must be watching events on the other side of the House barely able to believe their good fortune.

Of course, Brexit is a symptom of so much more, so much remaining unaddressed and unattended to by either party as each exhibits its own self-absorbed conceit at the expense of a people who have had enough. June 23 2016 was a storm long time coming, but neither party prepared by bringing a brolly. And they’re still stocking-up on sunscreen rather than purchasing parkas.

© The Editor