There are some things in life with an eternal longevity that serves as an inexplicably curious comfort; we may not devote much attention to them, but it’s still a source of satisfaction knowing they’re there. The Shipping Forecast, for example – or Ken Bruce. Then there are others that appear in annoying possession of an undeserved immortality that outlasts any relevance they once had. ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ was one of those for what felt like centuries before receiving a belated mercy killing; yet we’ve still got ‘Later with Jools Holland’. And added to that listless list could be this current Parliament, which seems set to go on and on and on until every member of the electorate over 40 is pushing up the daisies. By then, the young – all of whom are unquestionably of a Remainer persuasion, of course – will have inherited the ballot-box and it should be safe to hold a General Election again without fear the result of the 2016 Referendum will be honoured or that we will actually leave the EU.

Social media is today awash with reminders of how Boris Johnson once declared something or other and has now outrageously gone back on his word – as though reciting the PM’s catalogue of U-turns proves without doubt that he’s not a man to be trusted. In most cases, his record both in and out of politics shows, yes, he probably isn’t a man to be trusted; but when it comes to Brexit, he hasn’t really been left with any option but to reverse every public pronouncement on the subject courtesy of a Commons that clearly takes perverse delight in thwarting him seemingly just because he’s Boris. But whilst MPs of all opposition parties – not to mention many in Boris’s own – are having fun playing parliamentary parlour games, the rest of us are watching on with weary exasperation, thoroughly sick and tired of the entire repulsive circus.

Given what we have seen this year, did anyone really believe the Halloween deadline day would be adhered to? I’ve already lost track of how many deadline days we’ve bypassed in 2019, so the news that the EU has granted yet another extension against Boris’s declared wishes hardly warrants the Prime Minister being regarded as the reincarnation of Richard Nixon. Even if his own incompetence undoubtedly played a part, the fact is that yet again he was confronted by a brick wall of Remainers whose self-serving obstinacy is having the counter-productive effect of making the PM a sympathetic figure; rightly or wrongly, and whatever the true motivation of his actions, to the public it appears he’s the one person trying to implement what a majority of the electorate voted for over three years ago. In their eyes, he is not the one to blame for the latest in a long, long line of delays; we all know who is, and the guilty parties know we know – which is why they won’t give us the chance to vote them out of office.

Oh, sorry! I forgot. The Lib Dems and SNP have now colluded to dangle a carrot that may at least present the Government with the opportunity to override the support of the Labour Party that the wretched Fixed Term Parliaments Act requires. And amen to that. For all there is to admire in some of Labour’s proposals when it comes to those areas of social policy the Tories have shamefully disregarded over the past decade, it is Labour’s deluded stance on Brexit that will probably cost them dear at the nation’s polling stations. Throwing in its lot with the cosseted concerns of the metropolitan Parliamentary Labour Party is a catastrophic misjudgement of the opinions of all the lifelong Labour voters a long way from London – the disillusioned diehard that has no more in common with the champagne socialism of Starmer, Watson and Thornberry than it does with Oliver bloody Letwin.

Labour’s pitiful position in the polls after probably the most disastrous couple of years for the Conservative Party since the mid-1990s speaks volumes as to its prospects on the hustings to come – and delaying a General Election is as much a tactic of self-preservation for Labour as kicking Brexit into the endless long grass is for the Liberal Democrats. If Boris Johnson has a habit of shooting himself in the foot whenever his fortunes appear to have taken a turn for the better, Jeremy Corbyn has been equally accident-prone; the anti-Semitism issue has been swept under the carpet time and time again, yet it keeps coming back to further tarnish the Momentum bandwagon.

The remarkably close-run thing of 2017 is currently being exhumed by media Labour luvvies as an example of how the polls shouldn’t be relied upon as a pointer to the party’s performance. But Jezza was an unknown quantity to the electorate two years ago, when we were approaching a full decade since the financial crash and people were wearying of Austerity; his voice doesn’t sound quite so fresh now. Neil Kinnock’s failure in 1992 has often been put down to the fact he’d been Leader of the Opposition for too long – nine years at that time; Corbyn has held the same post for four, but it already seems so much longer.

The fanaticism of the Corbyn cult that characterised the 2017 General Election campaign has dwindled back to the hardcore now – as was inevitable with Corbyn not being crowned PM, despite his undeniably impressive, against-all-odds effort. Whipping-up the giddy enthusiasm of first-time voters by selling Jezza as a rock star was a policy destined to meet the same fate that befalls many a rock star whose zillion-selling debut album floods the charity shops when fashion moves on; the ‘difficult second album’ is not exactly eagerly-anticipated by the wider public. Indeed, for all its romanticising by the faithful, 2017 could actually be viewed in the same despondent light as the missed opportunity of 1992. Had Labour managed to win an outright majority and ousted Theresa May before her own party beat them to it, we wouldn’t have had a Hung Parliament, and therefore wouldn’t be trapped in this bloody Groundhog deadlock.

At least, for all their dominance in media circles, the People’s Vote mafia will invariably be split come Election Day, and this may well be their merciful undoing. A General Election should be fought on more than a single issue, but this one is bound to be even more Brexit-themed than the last; and that is not the fault of the electorate, but our elected representatives. The Second Referendum brigade are all-too aware that the problem when Parliament is overwhelmingly in synch with Remainer sensibilities is that voters are left with a dangerous variety of multiple choices – thus a ‘People’s Vote’ is the preferred option; that way, parties don’t come into it and they can all unite under the EU flag. With a General Election, however, the voters can only pick one pro-Remain faction, knowing another faction will suffer as a consequence – and there are so many to choose from! Leavers, on the other hand, largely only have the Tories or the Brexit Party – which is a profoundly depressing choice in itself; but such is life when you’re dead in a ditch.

© The Editor


Recent late-night drama at the Commons may have made for compelling entertainment in its combination of contemporary political jousting and bafflingly archaic ceremony; but such events are relatively rare there, as is the high level of attendance seen when these occasions come around. The day-to-day routine at Westminster seems closer to those somewhat disorientating debates we’ve all caught live on BBC Parliament, when the significance of the subject under discussion is downgraded by the empty seats and an anonymous MP droning on whilst an undercurrent of chatter distracts the viewer – not to mention the sight of other MPs wandering in and out as though they’re looking for the loos. The hours might be flexible, but Parliament largely operates as a Monday-Friday enterprise.

The prospect of an exceedingly unusual Saturday sitting coming up has inevitably exhumed the ghosts of past weekends in the debating chamber. Most of these took place on the eve of (or during) landmark moments in the Great British history book – the Falklands, Suez, and World War II; according to one account I read, the future President Kennedy was present in the gallery at the 1939 debate, though JFK’s father was, of course, US Ambassador to the UK at the time. The fact that Brexit will now take its place alongside events that both made and shamed us is perhaps a measure of just how defining the era we’re currently living through may prove to be; but MPs being recalled to the workplace outside of standard working hours also shines a light on the curious anomaly that is a Saturday.

Doing what I do, where I’m not constrained by the rigidity of the set working week and all its attendant weekend rituals, it’s odd that Saturday still feels…dare I say it…special. I suppose, like so much in life, the associations formed in formative years are hard to shake. If one was not especially enamoured with school, Friday home-time was the polar opposite of Monday morning, a brief window of release in which one received a 48-hour pass to a parallel universe where the children’s schedule was not governed by an educational timetable. Friday night often saw bedtime pushed back a little, and then there was the prospect of a lie-in till at least 9.30.

The arrival of ‘The Multi-Coloured Swap Shop’ on BBC1 in the autumn of 1976 was quite a game-changer for my generation; whilst the notion of three hours’ live TV anchored by Noel Edmonds might not necessarily be something I’d stumble out of bed for in 2019, it certainly did the trick for nine-year-old me. I remember Saturday morning TV pre-‘Swap Shop’ being an uneven, pre-recorded mix of cartoons, silent comedies and earnest ‘how to play badminton’-type instructional shows; by contrast, the fact the BBC was then prepared to invest in a programme as ambitiously innovative as ‘Swap Shop’ made it feel as though the younger viewer mattered as much as the dads and their ‘Grandstand’/’World of Sport’ marathons. There was a proliferation of pop promos, for one thing; I was introduced to both Blondie and Kate Bush due to ‘Swap Shop’ airing the videos for their debut hits before even TOTP got them; but it was the novel interactive element that really made the programme something new.

From the warmth of TV Centre, Noel would link to Keith ‘Cheggers’ Chegwin, usually freezing his balls off in some unseasonal coastal resort, yet nevertheless engulfed by a swarm of kids eager to brave the elements just to get their faces on camera and engage in a communal swap; but the greatest appeal was back in the studio, when pop stars and assorted 70s celebrities would actually speak to viewers lucky enough to get through on chic Trimphones. Today, whenever I dispatch an item to a fresh address via Amazon and I can’t complete the order without providing a phone-number for the delivery man (one I often don’t possess), I always give 01 8118055, the old ‘Swap Shop’ number everyone of a certain age remembers. I sometimes wonder if said delivery man ever rings it and Noel Edmonds answers at the other end – ‘Hello, you’re through to Suzi Quatro. What would you like to ask her?’

At the end of the 70s, ATV’s long-running regional rival, ‘Tiswas’, received a belated network promotion and provided Saturday mornings with a more anarchic flavour; legend has it there was a Beatles Vs Stones-like loyalty demanded of the viewer when it came to choosing between Posh Paws and Spit the Dog, but I suspect most (like me) would constantly change channels for the two hours the two shows went head-to-head. It also goes without saying that the luxury of lounging around in pyjamas watching Showaddywaddy being plastered in custard pies was dependent upon whether or not one’s mother was intent on dragging her children around the shops.

My abject boredom with C&A, M&S and all the rest could be pacified by reading material in the shape of a comic or – on special occasions – a paperback from the extensive library then available in Boots. What I obviously didn’t appreciate then was that Saturday was also a parental release from 9-to-5; my mother’s escape was to do the city centre rounds, whereas my father would either go watch a football match or play in one. The industry of leisure can characterise a Saturday; whatever one’s idea of leisure happens to be, a Saturday can cater for it. The jaunty theme tune of ‘Sports Report’ and the melodic recital of the football results by James Alexander Gordon was an occasion unique to a Saturday, as was the fact that thousands of hardcore punters up and down the country made the pilgrimage to windswept terraces to watch their local teams kick-off simultaneously at 3.00. If they were lucky, they might get to relive the spectacle on ‘Match of the Day’ later that evening.

Naturally, time moved on along with Brucie and Parky, and the Saturdays of 70s children became defined by Techno rather than the Tardis. Many a dazed clubber can recall 90s Saturday nights ending sometime on Sunday morning, where a stint on ‘Bamboozle’ would be followed by crashing-out and waking-up to a half-eaten pizza and the suddenly-perfectly logical world of the Teletubbies. Or was that just people I used to know? Anyway, I’m aware (courtesy of my student neighbours) that this ritual survives albeit in a slightly modified fashion – proof that Saturday maintains its distinctive identity whilst surrounded by increasingly indistinguishable weekdays; and that cannot be a bad thing.

A Commons sitting on a Saturday is therefore a somewhat incongruous scenario, but we live in strange times. Boris is trumpeting his Brexit deal when it could well boast all the failings of his predecessor’s by keeping us tied to some of the more contentious aspects of EU membership, yet leaving us without a voice in Brussels; and, of course, Labour, the Lib Dems and the SNP will all vote against it because ‘crashing out’ with No Deal and blaming everything on the Tories is better for their election prospects. And then there’s those beacons of eternal sunshine, the DUP. Saturday will probably end up being a bit of a damp squib in Westminster, but for many other people around the country the workplace won’t impinge on it at all. And for a country with some of the longest working hours in Europe, maybe that’s what makes Saturday special.

© The Editor


Impeachment proceedings against the US President set in motion; ongoing tensions between a hostile Israel and its hostile neighbours; Britain experiencing its worst economic crisis ‘since the war’ and a minority government unable to stem the rising tide of electoral disillusionment; increasing awareness of the damage being done to the environment by pollution and the time limit on natural resources; pop stars either churned-out by TV talent shows or taking to the stage carrying severed heads to shock Daily Mail readers. Anyway, that’s the world of 45 years ago for you; good job we’re in a better place now, innit.

1974 may seem like a long time ago – it certainly does if you were 6/7 at the time – but some of the exasperated media reactions to yesterday’s chaotic Commons resumption evidently came from those unaware that things were hardly more refined in the Westminster bear-pit of the early 70s. When unemployment hit the 1 million mark just a couple of years before 1974, the debate following the publication of the figures was so incendiary that the Speaker of the era blew his whistle and ordered both teams off the pitch until they’d cooled down. Even Bercow hasn’t stretched his authority that far, so one can only imagine how bad it must have been. We may be dependent upon Hansard for records of proceedings in the days before Parliament was broadcast either on radio or television, but at least the proof is there in black & white.

1974 started as it meant to go on. 1 January 1974 may have been the first occasion in which New Year was marked as a national holiday, though the timing of this distracting day-off was certainly convenient; 1 January 1974 also marked the inauguration of Ted Heath’s Three-Day Week. A few copies of the Radio Times are the only physical documents I have from that period, but they give a good indication of just how severe the restrictions imposed by the PM’s policy were. A magazine that on a good week could run to over 90 pages (Price 5p!) is reduced to a measly 32 (albeit without a reduction in the price) and the usual practice of printing separate editions for the different BBC regions has been suspended in favour of ‘All Editions’. However, even in a pre-24-hour TV age, it’s still strange to note that both BBC1 and BBC2 broadcasts (no ‘commercial’ channels listed in the publication then) close for business no later than 10.30pm. No VHS, DVD or YT to prolong the entertainment, either. I wonder if a lot of babies were born in the autumn of ’74.

References to the state of the nation pepper the dialogue in popular sitcoms of 1974, from ‘Rising Damp’ and ‘Porridge’ to ‘Steptoe and Son’ and ‘Till Death Us Do Part’; the latter even devoted an entire episode to the ‘Silly Moo’ played by Dandy Nichols announcing she was going on her own Three-Day Week, much to Alf Garnett’s consternation; and this episode aired in January itself, smack bang in the middle of events. Restrictions on electricity usage and street lighting further hammered home the sense of crisis to the public, as did an across-the-board pay-freeze while prices nonetheless continued to rise; and some football matches were even switched to a Sunday (Shock! Horror!) as a means of working around the floodlit ban on midweek games.

The Three-Day Week was also tapping into what was called ‘The Energy Crisis’ at the time, largely accelerated by the ramifications of the Yom Kippur War of 1973, when western nations’ support of Israel prompted the Arab oil-producers to quadruple the price of their supplies as they belatedly realised the strength of their hand. No-motoring Sundays in Holland and President Nixon advising Americans to turn down the thermostat were echoed in the British public information films produced during the Three-Day Week with their authoritarian catchphrase of S.O.S (‘Switch Off Something’). Perhaps my most vivid personal memory is that of visiting an aunt living in a concrete jungle of a tower block complex when there was a power-cut; I remember looking out on all the surrounding flats suddenly plunged into darkness – and it was a pretty intimidating place even when fully illuminated. My aunt couldn’t switch the fire on because none of the apartments had gas in the wake of Ronan Point, so we sat in the cold and dark and lit candles; we probably played cards.

Heath’s cynical ploy was blatantly intended to hold striking miners responsible for the situation, yet he completely misjudged the enduring grip the miners as a special breed of working-class hero had on the public’s sentimental imagination; when Ted called a snap General Election in February, he watched as his majority was whittled away quicker than you could say Theresa May. He desperately tried to cling on by cobbling together a coalition with Jeremy Thorpe’s Liberals, for the latter’s reward for upwards of 6 million votes was a paltry 14 seats; it didn’t work out, but 6 million voters were understandably disillusioned to see Harold Wilson back at No.10 – almost as if 6 million votes counted for nothing; just like 17.4, eh?

Labour’s lack of a majority made a second General Election unavoidable and it came in October, making 1974 the only year of the 20th century other than 1910 to contain two outings to the hustings; I wonder what Brenda from Bristol would’ve made of that. In the end, Wilson remained in power with a hardly overwhelming majority of 3. Aside from the political uncertainties, the feeling of the country going to Hell in a handcart was further compounded by the IRA’s most effective mainland cell making its savage mark in Guildford and Birmingham. Small-scale fascism was also making its presence felt via the National Front capitalising on the tendency to scapegoat immigrants as the cause of the nation’s ills; a student protestor called Kevin Gately was killed during a clash with the NF in London’s Red Lion Square in June, earning him the unenviable distinction of being the first person to die at a British demonstration in 55 years.

The streets may have been lower on knife or acid crime in 1974, but Britain was still a pretty violent place. As Stuart Maconie once reflected, giving the wrong answer to the question ‘Do you like Slade or T.Rex?’ posed by a stranger at a bus-stop could lead to a knuckle sandwich. Even as a six-year-old wandering either alone or with a pal, it was rare indeed to turn a corner and not be challenged to a fight by the snotty-nosed cock of the street in question.

It was no coincidence the year ended with two melancholy seasonal hits jostling for the No.1 spot. Mud’s ‘Lonely This Christmas’ and ‘Streets of London’ by Ralph McTell were quite a contrast with the boisterous, upbeat equivalents twelve months earlier, ‘I Wish it Could Be Christmas Every Day’ by Wizzard and Slade’s ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’; but the nation was knackered. The best music of 1974 is infused with an existential weariness, from Bowie’s apocalyptic ‘Diamond Dogs’ LP to Brian Protheroe’s sleepless-in-Soho one-hit wonder, ‘Pinball’ – yet, for all the post-Punk revisionism, the bar was still set remarkably high, give or take the occasional novelty hit. America’s own sense of crisis was best reflected in its cinema – from Warren Beatty’s paranoiac ‘The Parallax View’ to Bob Fosse’s Dustin Hoffman vehicle celebrating the decline and fall of a drug-addled comedian engaged in a doomed rage against the machine, ‘Lenny’. The fact that one of the biggest box-office smashes in the US was ‘Deep Throat’ said something itself.

So, yeah – the world is f***ed, but sometimes it seems it always has been. And I’ve no doubt that, had social media existed in 1974, maybe someone would be reminding the more hysterical tweeters that 1931 had been a bit grim too.

© The Editor


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.

© The Editor


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


And there was me expecting Friday’s ‘Newsnight’ to come live from the white cliffs of Dover, whereupon Jacob Rees-Mogg, Boris, Nigel and Tommy Robinson were scheduled to link arms at 11.00pm and treat us all to a rousing chorus of ‘Jerusalem’. It didn’t happen. I should imagine our lords and masters across the Channel were poised to give us nul points in the event, but there’s always 12 April. Don’t bank on it. Not tweaked quite enough and still not convincing enough for 344 dishonourable members, it was third time unlucky for Mrs May’s deal earlier in the day and, after a week in which Parliament ‘took control’ from the executive only to prove itself just as inept, the day that should have been the day ended in one more damp squib.

Theresa May’s tactic of dragging this out till the last minute so that the only alternative to her deal is no deal has proven to be as disastrous as all her other tactics. But is anyone really surprised anymore? Few fell for her crass offer of throwing money at deprived communities ‘oop north’; few fell for the carrot of knighthoods and peerages; and few fell for her announcement that she’d quit if her withdrawal agreement passed. Yes, even the ultimate sacrifice that most in her party crave failed to bring in the required numbers. The PM has tried to wheel and deal, but she’s no Harold Wilson.

According to some reports, May is going to try again next week; if it fails, she’ll probably give it another go the week after…and the week after that…and on and on and on until we all take the route recommended by the Reverend Jim Jones. Our Glorious Leader doesn’t yet seem to have realised she’s not running an administration with a vast majority, one that gives her cart-blanche to do what the hell she likes without having to acknowledge any other views in her divided house. I suspect some have attempted to point that out to her, but I’ve a feeling she probably stuck her fingers in her ears and went ‘Blaah blaah blaah blaah.’ I don’t believe a second referendum will resolve this bloody mess, nor do I believe a General Election will; but at the moment, the latter option seems absolutely essential, if only as a political laxative to end Westminster’s constipation and prompt a much-needed evacuation.

I became conscious and aware of the institution of Parliament and the office of Prime Minister perhaps around the time of the two 1974 Elections; kids ask questions, especially when they get a day off school and it’s not a Bank Holiday. Therefore, I’ve lived through quite a few different Governments of different colours over the last 40-odd years and I’ve occasionally done my bit at the polling station. But I can honestly say this staggering shambles that keeps defying the odds by outdoing itself is unprecedented in my lifetime. It simply cannot go on for much longer in its current incarnation, and neither can the Conservative Party with a leader capable of giving IDS a run for his money as its worst ever.

But then what? Looking at the prospective replacements for May feels like swiping through the world’s worst dating app, whereas Corbyn’s frontbench is about as appetising as the ‘reduced’ goods past their sell-by date on a supermarket shelf. Could any of them really do any better? And even if one takes the egos of the worst offenders into account, what madman or woman would really relish stepping into May’s hideous shoes right now? Theresa May won’t be packing up the nation’s troubles in an old kit bag when she exits Downing Street; they’ll all still be here when she’s gone. A General Election won’t magically wave them away, but I suppose it might possibly serve as a de facto referendum in terms of the electorate having their say on how their elected representatives have handled things since the last time the hustings were active. It’s hard to see an imminent General Election as anything else at this moment in time, despite the backlog of other pressing issues that are gathering dust and languishing in a criminal state of neglect.

A friend of mine recently spoke of how he had gradually reduced the amount of time he spends inhabiting the parallel universe of social media and feels all the better for it. Indeed, the more hours in a day one spends within the realms of that facsimile reality, the more one loses touch with the fact that its daily howl barely registers beyond the borders of cyberspace. ‘Are trans-women real women?’ isn’t necessarily the question on the lips of people juggling limited finances and deciding which bill takes priority this month; perhaps those with the luxury of debating trivialities regard them with such importance because they’re not plagued with moribund concerns. The thought that identity politics mean anything to those outside of the context social media junkies operate in is laughable. If one were to take Twitter as a microcosm of the real world then Titania McGrath would be Prime Minister.

While the brilliant spoof account of Titania McGrath satirises detachment via inherited privilege and/or bourgeois metropolitan comfort, one cannot help but see Westminster as a similarly detached bubble – with the significant difference being these living, breathing caricatures are affecting the lives of real people. The actual issues that have had a traumatic impact on the lives of those on the other side of that bubble have barely touched those inside it, hence the absence of empathy and absence of conscience when continuing to inflict them upon the rest of the populace or outsourcing them to some useless private company only in it for the profit. Perhaps empathy would be rated a little higher if the eye-opening experiment Matthew Parris took part in for ‘World in Action’ in the early 80s, living off the minimum benefits his government declared sufficient for living off, was compulsory training for every prospective MP.

The disconnect between elected and electorate that probably dates from the Expenses’ Scandal and Hackgate has only been intensified by Brexit, but the deliberate policy of delaying tactics which all colours have been guilty of seems to demonstrate the political class has learnt nothing from the last ten years. Events of the past week-and-a-bit have done little to alter my opinion of our elected representatives or their celebrity cheerleaders. Much is made of the ERG school of rich Brexiteer; but what of the loudest voices from the other side? Whether residing in the nicer parts of London, the nicer parts of the Home Counties, or simply wealthy ex-pats, these voices are not unlike those of the Hollywood-based Scots that the SNP flew over for the 2014 Independence Referendum, before swiftly depositing them back on Californian soil after the vote so they could avoid paying backdated UK tax. Weariness with endless lectures from wealthy chaps is something both sides of this divide share; but at least it means we’ve got something in common. Maybe we should use it to our advantage.

© The Editor


One of the many reasons why I have drifted away from the daily missives some of you used to look forward to is that I don’t talk politics with anyone anymore. Conversations that spawned and informed many a past post on here no longer take place due to unforeseen circumstances that have led to a loss of appetite for many things, never mind talking politics. Nobody I now know is as clued-up as some I used to know, so I tend to get asked questions about what’s going on as though I’m some expert oracle of the kind Michael Gove would no doubt despise; that in itself would be a good enough reason to be one, but I’m not, alas. At the same time, I’ve broken my blog silence without any advance planning simply because my sedated, slumbering inner blogger has been stirred back into action through sheer exasperation.

I guess I don’t have to elaborate on what motivated this unscheduled return to the frontline. Yes, I’ve followed events like the rest of you of late – the BBC News Channel, ‘Peston’, ‘This Week’, the programme formerly known as ‘The Daily Politics’, and that bastion of outrageous institutionalised bigotry that won’t even allow MPs fond of playing the race card when their myriad shortcomings are exposed to drone on forever, ‘Question Time’. So hapless have I become in trying to locate any light at the end of the Brexit tunnel that all I could conclude from a recent ‘Newsnight’ debate on the subject was the undeniable fact that 65 year-old Baroness Meyer has a great pair of legs. Yes, I’m that f****d. But angry as well. I know I’m not alone there; perhaps this country’s defining characteristic at the moment is anger, though it’s no real wonder when our elected representatives make one yearn for the intervention of Guy Fawkes and his pals.

OK, let’s start at the top. Theresa May is perhaps the most nihilistically intransigent Prime Minister since Ted Heath, yet like the equally toe-curling portrayal of a certain Time Lord by Jodie Whittaker, our Glorious Leader tries to draw on her predecessors to create her own interpretation of a part she lacks the talent to make her own. She combines the blinkered, deluded cluelessness of Cameron with the bloody-minded tunnel vision of Thatcher in her Poll Tax death-throes, and blends the excruciatingly uncomfortable, awkward-on-camera bumbling of Gordon Brown with the God-bothering righteousness of Blair at his most sanctimoniously evangelical. She seems to have the knack of taking on the worst characteristics of past PMs, and as a result she’s even got people feeling sorry for her, just like they feel sorry for every tone-deaf wannabe being ripped to shreds by the judges on TV talent shows. What an achievement that is, to win the favour of the electorate by courting their pity.

Never mind – Mrs May and her unruly Cabinet of careerists, crawlers and backstabbers will soon be overthrown by the Great Socialist Revolution of the Messiah, an event which has had more postponements than HS2. Oh, God. What a choice we face – dumb or dumber. Yet there’s always the prospect of a Third Party, of course, an SDP for the twenty-first century composed of all those Honourable Members who are largely responsible for the mess we’re in. Yes, those (© John Major) ‘bastards’ who have made it their daily duty to thwart the outcome of a democratic vote they didn’t want and didn’t expect. Whether it’s Chuka Remoaner and the rest of the Miliband deadwood or the likes of Anna ‘Nazi’ Soubry, the two and-a-half years since the actual People’s Vote have been defined in Parliament by this contemptible coterie of detached demagogues deliberately throwing down obstacle after obstacle in order to prevent the enacting of something a majority of the electorate voted for. To put it plainly, they are despicable.

I admit I voted Remain in 2016, motivated by a ‘better the devil you know’ approach rather than any particular affection for an organisation I honestly hadn’t really given much thought to. Since then, however, my perspective has undergone a radical transformation entirely due to those who voted the same way as me. I have been appalled by the attitude and behaviour of some of those who advocated Remain and their foot-stamping refusal to accept a result that told them what they didn’t want to hear. Their superior arrogance has only been matched by the superior arrogance of the EU itself. No wonder they’re such kindred spirits.

To me, it now seems the reasons behind the result of the EU Referendum of 2016 have distinct parallels with the circumstances that put Donald Trump in the White House. The outcome was the consequence of so many people feeling so powerless after being ignored and dismissed for decades, whether by the scythe Thatcher took to communities dependent on heavy industry or the Coalition’s ruthless austerity policies. Suddenly, the powerless were presented with a platform to give the powers-that-be that had trampled them underfoot for generations a legally sanctioned bloody nose. MSM talking heads can waffle on about immigration or every other explanation given for the result, but in the end, Brexit was the most gloriously defiant ‘fuck you’ aimed at the political class in post-war British history. That’s the way it seems to me now, anyway. And the subsequent response of the political class and their media sponsors has only strengthened this opinion.

Just a couple of weeks ago, that nasty old guillotine-knitter Polly Toynbee reiterated the jaw-dropping narrative of Remoaners at their most vile by openly wishing death upon anyone over 50 who voted Leave in order that Youth would inherit the vote. This narrative of course assumes anyone who wasn’t eligible to vote in 2016 would naturally vote Remain in the event of a second Referendum. Yes, I’ve no doubt all the ‘young people’ Polly Toynbee and her fellow Grauniad scribes probably come into contact with – at a guess, the student offspring of their affluent acquaintances – probably would vote Remain; but what of the products of under-privilege in every grotty corner of the country who are tumbling out of an educational bubble trashed by useless Blairite rhetoric and straight into zero-hours uncertainty or the Circumlocution Office maze of Universal Credit? Why should they automatically give the thumbs-up to the system that exists to make their lives a misery? The great divide in Great Britain is the same today as it has always been – not gender, not colour, not creed, but class.

Yes, I know I’m guilty of generalising here. If Leave was an entirely working-class upsurge, how does that explain Jacob Rees-Mogg? Maybe he gets so much air-time because he helps reinforce the MSM view that Leave voters are all either eccentric, vaguely unhinged toffs like the Honourable Member for North East Somerset and Boris, or red-faced gammon men in yellow vests to whom Tommy Robinson is Che Guevara. Dehumanising your enemy is the first rule in the book of warfare, and the populace has been battered by a sustained campaign of dehumanisation by the powerful Remoaner mafia since June 2016, something that continues to this very day with the Project Fear prediction of martial law, absent medicines, empty supermarket shelves and a future Britain resembling that of the BBC’s mid-70s Dystopian drama, ‘Survivors’.

In many respects I wish the Referendum had never happened. I think it has been disastrous for the country’s (admittedly shaky) concept of unity, but at the same time has served to highlight divisions that have been in place for far longer than most were prepared to admit. There is no easy answer and there is no easy outcome, but if the will of the majority is denied, the contract between electorate and elected will be broken forever. And God knows what happens then. Be careful out there…

© The Editor


Rolling news channels tend to break big stories in a melodramatic manner that invariably recalls the ‘War!’ episode of ‘The Day Today’ because rolling news channels for most of the time are about as thrilling a viewing experience as the test card – so many hours need filling and there’s often so little to work with. Therefore, when A Major Incident occurs, they can barely contain their excitement. At last, something to justify their existence! The first rule in the Major Incident manual is that the anchors abruptly disappear from the screen and effectively become radio presenters, as though seeing their perma-tanned countenances and lacquered coiffures will somehow belittle the gravitas of the news story.

The second rule in the Major Incident manual is to cut to a reporter on the spot, often one fairly low in the reporter pecking order, but the nearest on hand. Conscious this could be their Kate Adie-in-Tiananmen Square moment, their lack of experience is evident in the way they can’t keep a lid on the hyperbole by describing events in terms of ‘nothing like this has ever happened before’; there are also usually awkward-on-camera eyewitnesses shoved into shot for said reporter to quiz, ones whose accounts climax with the reporter asking them ‘how they feel’, as though they’ve just spoken to the Queen on a royal walkabout.

The visual lexicon of rolling news clichés roll on – there’s mobile phone footage shot in the wrong aspect ratio; there’s an expert in the studio the presenter can interview; there’s another expert down the line; there’s the distracting Sky Sports ‘Soccer Saturday’-style info blazing a trail along the bottom of the screen, basically repeating what we’ve already been told; there’s a ‘greatest hits’ compilation of images lasting around three minutes – aerial shots, people running away from whatever happened, police and ambulance crews doing for real what they’ve been though in endless hours of training, general panic and confusion – and it’s played out on a loop as speculation reigns. Throw in the phrase ‘Terror Incident’ to hammer home how serious this all is for good measure. As a means of finding out precisely what the hell is going on, one might as well consult the entrails of a sheep.

Following a phone-call, I stuck BBC1 on this afternoon and found it had turned into the BBC News Channel. From what I could gather, some nutter had driven his car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, exited his vehicle brandishing a knife, stabbed a copper, ran towards the Palace of Westminster, stabbed another copper, and was then cut down by an armed copper before he could get anywhere near Parliament. There was a report one member of the public was dead as a result of what happened on Westminster Bridge and an equally grim report that there was a body in the Thames. It would seem this was classified as a ‘terror incident’ rather than a knife crime on account of the incident’s location. I don’t know if there’s some sort of invisible demarcation line in London whereby, depending what side of it you’re on, the distinction is evident.

At the time of writing, the assailant’s identity has not been revealed. If he’s called Mohammed, I would guess that fits the terrorist bill; but as with any story of this gruesome nature, I wouldn’t expect to know many details so early after it taking place. Tuning into a rolling news channel in the thick of it is probably the worst way of trying to find out; the dazzling recycling of the same images over and over again intensifies rather than eases the viewer’s sense of bewilderment, while reporters not much more informed than the members of the public surrounding them are trying their best to give the impression they are. It’s like they’ve bragged they can recite a particularly lengthy poem, but when they get the chance to do so they don’t actually know it word-for-word.

JG Ballard famously opined that, for him, sensationalistic reportage of violent events began with the JFK assassination, which may well be true, though he lived most of his adult life in a pre-24 hour news TV age. Bar the old-school newsflash, which would interrupt a scheduled programme for a few minutes to report a breaking news story and then announce more details would follow on ‘The Nine O’Clock News’ a few hours later, the first time I remember a live event taking over the telly was the climax of the Iranian Embassy Siege in 1980, when the dramatic actions of the SAS in rescuing the hostages were just about Bond-like enough to vindicate the interruption and keep viewers watching. But it was a hardly a regular occurrence, more of an aberration in the way stories were covered.

As far as I can recall, the inaugural moment when the style of presentation viewers were again served up today gate-crashed mainstream television was 9/11; since then, any sign of an incident that can have ‘terror’ attached to it has warranted the same treatment. The problem is that nobody really knows what’s going on, certainly not in the first couple of hours following it, anyway. Sometimes, a degree of distance is required to provide a more measured response, but competing rolling news channels can’t afford to do that, so they have to keep showing the same images, repeating the same unconfirmed reports and indulging in speculative guess-work based on what they have so far. It’s not a very satisfactory source of information, to say the least.

It’s pointless me joining in the speculation with this post because I’m no more clued-up than you (if you’re reading it not long after I posted it, of course); I wrote it because I just find the reporting of these events in the immediate aftermath of them taking place incredibly frustrating and liable to induce the feeling of how the world is going to hell in a handcart, something I might not necessarily feel a few hours later when a clearer picture emerges. But the sad fact is we’re now all programmed to reach for the TV remote when we hear A Major Incident has happened, even if doing so leaves us none the wiser.

© The Editor


bercowMP David Davis is currently known for forming one-third of an uneasy trio with Bo-Jo and Dr Fox to which Theresa May has assigned the tricky task of extricating the UK from the EU; plucked from the backbenches he had inhabited ever since his highly-publicised stunt of quitting Cameron’s Shadow Cabinet in 2008, resigning his seat and then standing for it again, Davis now has the kind of responsibility his 30-year career in Parliament has often hinted at but has never previously seemed likely. However, when he’d only been in the job for a couple of years, he wrote a book timed to coincide with the long-awaited televising of the Commons.

‘The BBC Viewer’s Guide to Parliament’ is a slim little volume penned by Davis and published in 1989. I picked it off the Oxfam bookshelf around five years ago and have to admit it is a handy layman’s introduction to the beguiling institution, one that deciphers some of the more incomprehensible traditions and phrases that regularly crop up both in the press and on TV, the kind that are rarely explained by political anoraks because the assumption is that everybody reading or watching must understand them or wouldn’t be reading or watching in the first place. The cover features ‘Punch’-like caricatures of Thatcher, Kinnock, Lawson, Hattersley, Howe and Robin Cook as well as the then-Speaker of the House, Bernard Weatherill.

The key difference between Weatherill and his three successors in the Speaker’s Chair, Betty Boothroyd, Michael Martin and John Bercow, is evident in his caricature on the cover of the book; he’s depicted wearing the long judge’s wig that had formed part of the Speaker’s traditional uniform for centuries. When the House of Commons finally made it to TV screens, he did indeed appear in the customary apparel and added to the theatre of the spectacle in the process, as befitting the holder of one of Parliament’s oldest posts (dating back to at least 1258).

When Boothroyd became the first female Speaker in 1992, she decided to dispense with the wig and neither of the two men to follow her has chosen to revive it; perhaps television exposure gave the public the impression that the archaic visual trimmings of the Commons were an indication of how out-of-touch Parliament was, and the ‘modernising’ approach from Blair’s Government onwards seems to have mistaken window dressing for content when it comes to how Parliament is perceived by the man-in-the-street. Personally, I believe the grandiose Gothic setting of the Palace of Westminster is entirely suited to powdered periwigs and foppish finery, and no amount of sartorial modernisation can compensate for fixing the factors that provoke genuine grievances in the average member of the electorate.

The last Speaker of the House, Michael Martin, was infamously and unceremoniously ousted in 2009, when he was embroiled in the Expenses’ Scandal, the first Speaker to have been forced out in such a manner since 1659. His successor, the divisive John Bercow, has held the post ever since, despite his widespread unpopularity amongst fellow Tories. Once a member of the notorious, borderline racist far-right Conservative Monday Club, the pint-sized Tory has drifted towards the centre over the past decade or so and has usually found more support within Labour and Lib Dem ranks as a consequence.

As a member of Ian Duncan Smith’s Shadow Cabinet in 2002, Bercow defied IDS’s three-line whip ordering the Tories to vote against Labour’s bill to give unmarried gay and heterosexual couples the right to adopt; his resignation as a result confirmed his embrace of a more socially liberal agenda. The enmity felt towards him by members of his own party was later highlighted during his election as Speaker when it was alleged as few as three Tory MPs voted for him; his election was largely achieved via Labour MPs, who were well aware of the dislike of Bercow in Conservative circles.

The Tory-led Coalition attempted a sneaky ruse to depose Bercow in 2015, proposing a secret ballot vote on the Speaker’s re-election after the upcoming General Election, a motion introduced on the eve of Parliament’s dissolution and in the absence of several Labour MPs who had already headed back to their constituencies. It failed and Bercow was re-elected following the Election.

Two incidents in the Commons yesterday underlined Bercow’s curious relationship with the Conservative Party. The first followed Theresa May referring to one of Jeremy Corbyn’s front-bench London clique, Emily Thornberry, by her actual title of ‘Lady Nugee’; the Shadow Foreign Secretary who sneered at the working-class with her White Van Tweet of 2014 and sent her son to a ‘partially selective’ school (ala noted migraine-sufferer Diane Abbott), clearly regarded this as an insult that doesn’t sit comfortably on her socialist shoulders. She simmered and stewed before crying to teacher, prompting the Speaker to intervene and rebuke the PM.

Bercow grabbed more headlines, however, with his assertion that he would oppose any invitation to President Trump to address both Houses in Westminster Hall; he reminded the Commons this was an entirely optional honour and not necessarily an obligatory one, but he also managed to emphasise his own personal opposition to the Donald’s current travel ban concerning citizens of several Muslim countries. Labour, Lib Dem and SNP MPs who supported the Speaker’s outburst claimed Bercow was saying what many of them thought re the State Visit of the US President, filling the vacuum left by the Prime Minister’s hasty jaunt to Washington and apparent ease in overlooking contentious policies in her desperation to secure a trade deal; prominent Tories, on the other hand, accused Bercow of playing to the gallery and seeking publicity by jumping on the anti-Trump bandwagon.

The impartiality of the Speaker of the House, regardless of which party he or she belongs to, is supposed to be one of the position’s job descriptions, and Bercow has been deemed by some as overstepping the mark with his comments on Trump. One could say he was echoing the sentiments of the majority of the public where Trump is concerned; others could say he and his missus are a little too fond of the limelight and should keep their opinions to themselves. Whichever side of the argument you fall on, there’s no denying that in this 24-hour media age, the post that is almost as ancient as Parliament itself hasn’t been rendered irrelevant by the passage of time, retaining the ability to make itself heard in a way that David Davis’s little guidebook failed to foresee nearly thirty years ago.

© The Editor


the-ruling-class-film-images-76ef4846-4b25-43ed-a98f-59921a49240The news announced last week that there will be no immediate ‘reform of the Lords’ in the near-future passed by relatively unnoticed amidst the ongoing ricochet from the result of the US Presidential Election, but another never-ending issue – Brexit – was cited as the excuse. Of course, delays are nothing new when it comes to reforming the Upper House, and even if there are far more than the required peers to fill it, at least it’s known how many holes will; something to do with 4,000 in Blackburn, Lancashire, apparently.

Anyway, considering the fact that there are now a staggering 812 sitting Lords (compared to 650 serving MPs), it’s interesting to note the Upper House for many centuries consisted of around just 50 members. George III changed all that by creating endless peerages to ensure his support in one chamber where he couldn’t always guarantee it in the other at especially perilous times for the monarchy. However, the pre-eminent position the Lords once held over the Commons diminished as the nineteenth century progressed; the last serving Prime Minister to sit in the Lords was the Marquess of Salisbury, whose final term in office ended in 1902.

The last successful attempt by the Lords to reassert its seniority over the Commons came in 1909, when it rejected Liberal Chancellor David Lloyd George’s so-called ‘People’s Budget’; its main objection was the proposed landowner’s tax, which came as no surprise when the Lords consisted largely of Tory gentry. A furious Lloyd George never forgot the rejection and when the Liberals were re-elected twice in 1910, PM Herbert Henry Asquith was determined to clip the wings of the Lords; a bill to do so was strengthened by the threat of George V creating enough Liberal peers to override Conservative opposition, and the Parliament Act of 1911 effectively abolished the ability of the Lords to veto major government legislation again.

The next big change to come to the House of the Lords was Harold Macmillan’s Life Peerages Act of 1958; in a way, the Act was Supermac’s response to stated Labour demands to either abolish the Lords or create a wholly elected Upper House. This extension of patronage on the part of a Prime Minister gave him a previously unprecedented power to manufacture a favourable balance in the chamber by creating life peers, a relatively easier option than the increasingly-rare creation of hereditary peerages. The Act also enabled female peers to sit in the Lords for the first time, and the new life peers were able to join the bishops and judges whose well-established place there was already life-only.

Gradually, hereditary peers began to be outnumbered, the first such challenge to their supremacy they’d ever received, and new non-royal hereditary peerages higher than a baronetcy were few and far between in the second half of the twentieth century; ironically, the most recent to be created was in 1984, an earldom awarded to none other than Harold Macmillan.

Every post-1945 Labour Government has loudly proclaimed Lords reform to be a necessity, yet many leading Labour critics of the chamber, such as Neil Kinnock and Roy Hattersley, have happily accepted life peerages once retired from the Commons. The recent example of Shami Chakrabarti, the socialist social justice warrior allegedly promised the peerage she was awarded even before her report into Labour’s problem with anti-Semitism, highlights these double standards once again. For all his faults, at least Tony Benn fought to disclaim the peerage he inherited in order to remain in the Lower House. And it is the Labour Party to whom the Lords owes its current shape; Tony Blair’s expulsion of all but 92 hereditary peers from the Upper House in 1999 (A consequence of Labour’s 1997 General Election manifesto) has been followed by his successors swamping the chamber with appointed cronies intended to ease the passage of bills through Parliament.

There were over a thousand peers eligible to sit in the Lords before Blair’s 1999 reforms cut numbers down to 669, yet numbers have swelled since due to the cynical manner in which life peerages are awarded. David Cameron created on average 41 life peers a year during his premiership, mostly what former Speaker of the Commons Betty Boothroyd has referred to as ‘lobby fodder’, and in his first twelve months as Prime Minister had created an outrageous 117. This tactic didn’t necessarily favour an easy passage for Coalition legislation, nor did it help during the brief spell he had as head of a solely Conservative Government, when the abundance of Lib Dem peers in comparison to the party’s MPs successfully scuppered some of the more swingeing proposals in George Osborne budgets.

As the overcrowding of the Lords by life peers has shown, the House of Lords is viewed by governments as a convenient way of increasing their numbers when it comes to crucial votes, and the elected chamber that most reformers usually call for would probably be just as bad, consisting of yet more party toadies submitted by the party machine. After all, we already have an elected Commons and few find that satisfactory. At its best, the Lords can often keep the government of the day in check and sometimes comes across as the kindly uncle to the Commons’ mean-minded father figure. Of the three main parties, the Tories currently have 255 sitting members in the Lords, Labour have 206 and the Lib Dems 104. Add the 182 crossbench representatives and it’s clear why a Conservative Government would dread the reaction any especially punitive bill will receive once it reaches the Lords.

Yes, reform is required, though not an elected chamber. The power of a Prime Minister to carry on creating life peers unchecked should be severely restricted and those already in there should be forced to serve no more than perhaps a decade before stepping down. A second chamber is certainly needed, though nobody appears happy with the one we’ve got – albeit for very different reasons.

© The Editor