A WORLD WITHOUT SUMMER

The Year Without Summer – that’s what they called 1816. Pre-Industrial Europe was in the middle of recovering from the long, lingering impact of the Napoleonic Wars and was then hit by an agricultural disaster, one that was mirrored across parts of North America and China. In Ireland, failed crops sparked famine; in Germany, they sparked riots. Switzerland slid into a deep-freeze whilst India was plunged into an outbreak of cholera as the period known retrospectively as ‘The Little Ice Age’ climaxed in catastrophic fashion. Most of the blame was laid at the door of Mount Tambora in the Dutch East Indies, a dormant volcano that had suddenly sprung into life after a thousand years with the largest observed eruption in recorded history. Lava continued to sport forth for more than eighteen months, dispersing ash into the atmosphere that caused severe climate change, reducing global temperatures and resulting in upwards of an estimated 10,000 deaths worldwide.

The distorted colours of the sulphuric skies that Tambora’s eruption caused are believed to have inspired the distinctive smudgy shades of JMW Turner’s paintings as well as creating the apocalyptic ambience that provoked 18-year-old Mary Shelley into penning ‘Frankenstein’ when holidaying with Percy Bysshe and Lord Byron on the gloomy fringes of Lake Geneva that non-summer. Whilst such a baleful location may have suited Gothic sensibilities, no doubt there were many who perceived the dramatic alteration in the climate as a sign of God’s displeasure with mankind. Mind you, God generally lets mankind get away with a hell of a lot before he can be arsed intervening.

200 years on from that remarkable climatic event, humble little me wrote a post called ‘Something in the Air’; take a look – it’s still there. In it, I commented on a pessimistic malaise that seemed to have settled upon the world, something that was manifested via a variety of dismal news stories, the impact of which was possibly exacerbated by the instant ping of social media. Coupled with very personal crises friends of mine were simultaneously undergoing at the time of writing, it felt as though the external and internal were bleeding into one overwhelming weight on the shoulders of numerous generations inhabiting the here and now. A year or so on from that particular post, it would be nice to come to the conclusion that this was a piece of reportage chronicling a moment of madness, a missive from the dark that preceded a dawn we happily reside in as 2017 careers towards its climax. Oops!

In a couple of days, this blog will have been in existence for two years. As a writer, I couldn’t have wished for more eventful times to have been documenting on a near-daily basis. Since the inaugural post on 6 December 2015, I’ve been able to comment upon the rise of Donald Trump and the Alt-Right as well as his loud opponents on the left and those in North Korea. When I began, we were barely six months into a Conservative Government released from the constricting shackles of Coalition, yet six months into the blog David Cameron had lost an ill-advised gamble (and his job) by leading the country into a chaotic state of uncertainty it has yet to recover from. One more indecisive General Election and one more ineffective Prime Minister later, Brexit remains the ultimate barometer of division as neither Remainer/Remoaner nor Brexiteer are happy with what Government is doing in their name. And this Whitehall farce seems set to run and run well into 2018.

Of course, it is the raison d’être of online news outlets to focus on the horrible with sensationalistic relish, just as it remains so for the traditional print and cathode-ray mediums that predate them, regardless of the ‘and finally’ solace at the end of the carnage. The public wants what the public gets, as Paul Weller said almost 40 years ago (I know; it’s scary); a YT video I produced in 2014 took that line as its title whilst a catalogue of contemporary images accompanied the theme tune from the distant childhood adventures of Teddy Edward.

One of these images was of a couple kissing, under which a caption announced ‘This is Rape’. Far be it from me to adopt the guise of a twenty-first century Nostradamus, but this particular statement is suddenly relevant courtesy of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, whose latest Tweet is as good a reason as any why law-enforcers should steer clear of social media and concentrate on solving genuine bloody crimes. According to a now-deleted Tweet that has nevertheless been posthumously seized upon by the Daily Telegraph, kissing a lady under the mistletoe (something that apparently still occurs) is classified as ‘rape’ unless consent is first acquired. Say no more, twenty-seven-f**king-teen.

I don’t know what’s going on any more than you do. It’s insane, and I don’t know how we got here, let alone how we get out of it. I poke fun at it with a sardonic eye, but I’m well aware I’m just pissing in the wind, satirically fiddling as our rotten Rome burns. Over a year on from ‘Something in the Air’, the fog hasn’t cleared and people who matter to me – good people who don’t deserve the shit they’re having to deal with – are even worse off now than they were then. I try to be a tower of strength to them, but I often feel a bit of a hypocrite ‘cause I know deep down I’m as f**ked-up as they are. I could be bold and declare I start most days struggling to come up with a reason to keep buggering on and end most days unconvinced that I found one; but my ego likes to think I make a difference, so I stick around.

Simon le Bon was once ripped to shreds for carelessly describing Duran Duran as the band to dance to when the bomb drops, but part of me knows what he meant. We may be almost four decades on from a throwaway comment made in the heat of early 80s Cold War paranoia; but if this is the blog that people read before they take a leap into the unknown from Beachy Head, so be it. As long as I’m here, I’ll KBO and I’ll love a select few as I do so because they make life worth living. And I’ll still be here when you switch on tomorrow, for good or ill.

© The Editor

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mr-Yesterday-Johnny-Monroe/dp/154995718X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1510941083&sr=1-1

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AM I BOVVERED?

‘Meh’ was once the term particularly prevalent on social media five or six years back (could be more – who cares?) that was intended to verbalise a shrug of the shoulders and condense ‘I couldn’t give a f**k’ into one short, sharp shock of a statement. I never thought I’d miss a word so characteristic of this rotten century’s habit of shortening the English language into an endless sequence of edited sound-bites; but ‘meh’ seems so apt when it comes to the last 48 hours. Prince Harry getting engaged – meh; Donald Trump tweeting Britain First videos – meh. There are people I know who are having to deal with serious issues considerably more significant than ‘the spare’ getting hitched to the whitest mixed-race divorcee on the market or the President of the USA presenting virtue-signalling MPs with another opportunity to denounce him as the reincarnation of Hitler.

Prince Harry, the Hooray Henry of disputable parentage and the Margaret to William’s Elizabeth, spent his youth cutting a ginger swathe through the tabloids either in the altogether or wearing a Swastika, and then redeemed his reputation in the eyes of those who give a shit by playing the soldier for Granny & Country before embarking upon the tried-and-tested route of doing something charitable for ‘Our Boys’ to show he wasn’t just another upgrade of self-indulgent Hanoverian excess in the absence of something to do. By announcing his engagement to a glorified Kardashian, Harry has gifted Fleet Street with one more reason to recycle the same tired old clichés anew in its never-ending Windsor propaganda programme for a nation that wouldn’t be remotely interested were it not for BBC1 and ITV plugging this nauseating shit on a loop as some form of superficial panacea for the people while they struggle to make ends meet.

With Meghan Markle being American, it was only a matter of excruciating seconds before the spectre of Wallis Simpson infiltrated the coverage, though it should be noted that Mrs Simpson was having it off with a man poised to become King and Emperor in an age in which both Catholics and divorcees were barred from ascending to consort status. Harry is currently fifth in line to the throne and will drop another place come the birth of the third sprog to emerge from the marriage of William and Kate, scheduled to be born on the front page of the Daily Express next spring. It’s not exactly a constitutional crisis, is it?

As for Meghan Markle’s countryman ensconced in the White House, this has been a week in which Mr President has given the left in this country one more open goal they’ve made the most of. His ill-advised re-tweets of gruesome videos posted by Britain First have led to renewed calls to withdraw the invite for a state visit that Theresa May made with uncomfortable haste in the wake of his victory in the US Presidential Election last year. The Donald’s Twitter adventures were a source of both entertainment and outrage even before he ascended to the pinnacle of power, but the hounds unleashed by his latest social media faux-pas have certainly sparked some delicious holier-than-thou hypocrisy in the Commons this week.

A few Tories such as Sajid Javid have broadcast their reactions, whereas Labour MP Naz Shah – a woman so thick and quick to virtue-signal that she re-tweeted a mischievous comment by the fake Owen Jones without pausing to notice his surname was spelt differently – has added her voice to the Trump condemnation by agreeing with a veteran backbencher from her own party that the President should be charged with ‘Hate Crime’. The usual Labour suspects such as ‘Celebrity Mastermind’ dummy David Lammy and Emily ‘Lady Nugee’ Thornberry have lined-up to wear their mortification as T-shirts, and Chris Bryant reminded the electorate he’s still alive by accusing Trump of ‘inciting religious hatred’ – sorry, but are we living in Cromwell’s Commonwealth? Blasphemy laws should have been blown to smithereens with the Gunpowder Plot. They have no place in the twenty-first century, regardless of how Islam has been ring-fenced as a special case above and beyond any criticism, thus sending those unable to express reservations into the arms of illiterate rabble-rousers like Britain First.

Theresa May has added her voice to the condemnation and provoked a defensive response from Trump himself; the PM’s scripted stance has earned her support amongst Trump’s opponents in the US, including a rather worrying Tweet from Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah (no, me neither), who declared the PM was ‘one of the great world leaders’ and proclaimed he has ‘incredible love and respect for her and the way she leads the United Kingdom, especially in the face of turbulence’. Is that the turbulence of Brexit, the turbulence caused by her own unruly Cabinet, or ‘the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom’ that the President spoke of following Mrs May’s criticism of him, I wonder?

Donald Trump is too dim and full of himself to avoid walking into these PR disasters, yet those who are on a permanent vigil to rip him to shreds whenever he puts his foot in it again, and are anticipating being showered in plaudits for doing so, are no better – the same self-serving, egotistical wankers whose desperate cries for attention mean no more to me than Prince Harry’s nuptials. F**k the lot of ‘em.

© The Editor

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mr-Yesterday-Johnny-Monroe/dp/154995718X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1510941083&sr=1-1

NICE ‘N’ SLEAZY

Whilst that odious Jabba Tom Watson weeps crocodile tears over the suicide of Carl Sargeant, seemingly oblivious to the blood on his own hands, the excuse for an administration perched on the opposing benches could have done without what passes for a ‘sex scandal’ in 2017, certainly on top of everything else. But whilst rolling news channels prefer the ridiculous spectacle of helicopters trailing a returning member of the Cabinet en route from Heathrow to No.10 as though she was OJ Simpson being chased by the LAPD, there’s nothing the tabloid end of Fleet Street loves more than what happens, as Peter Wyngarde once said, ‘when sex leers its inquisitive head’. Parallels with John Major’s similarly shambolic Cabinet have come thicker and faster in recent weeks, though it’s no great surprise. One has to go back 25 years to find the nearest comparison of a governing party so viciously divided over Europe and simultaneously saddled with wandering hands.

When the disaster of Black Wednesday hit and Britain was forced to leave the European Exchange Rate Mechanism, a move that cost the Treasury £3.3 billion as desperate attempts to defend sterling’s value proved futile, the same week saw the resignation of high-profile Major Minister David Mellor, following a proper sex scandal. The fact Major dithered over replacing Norman Lamont, his Chancellor during Black Wednesday also suggested the PM was weak and indecisive; even though the economy was slowly improving and unemployment was beginning to fall, confidence in the nation’s leader had plummeted. The inauguration of Back to Basics, unveiled at the 1993 Conservative Party Conference, was seen by many as an attempt by Major to salvage his dwindling reputation and appeal to the right-wing tabloids that had begun to waver in their support.

In retrospect, Back to Basics can be held responsible for the public perception of the Tories as the ‘nasty party’ as much as any of the divisive policies pursued by Mrs Thatcher in the 1980s. Hallmarks of Tory policy that have continued into this century via the likes of IDS were key to this horrible, desperate gamble by Major, singling out a small section of society as the cause of society’s ills, safe in the knowledge that this small section were powerless to fight back.

Along with single mothers, there were criticisms of soft sentencing on the part of the justice system, painting a picture of Britain’s inner cities as lawless hotbeds of unchecked criminality; illegal raves were also held up as a further example of the country’s lapse into immoral anarchy. The blame game is always a sure sign that an administration has run out of ideas, and whilst Major’s accusations chimed with editorials in some of Fleet Street’s more reactionary publications, the vast majority of the press and public found the whole Back to Basics project utterly ludicrous. And, as luck would have it, within a few months of Back to Basics being unveiled, a steady stream of scandals emanating from the Tory party undermined Major’s credibility and highlighted the hypocrisy at the heart of this most ill-advised of political projects.

In 1990, Tory MP Tim Yeo had made a speech in which he declared – ‘It is in everyone’s interest to reduce broken families and the numbers of single parents. I have seen from my own constituency the consequences of marital breakdown’. Just three months after the launch of Back to Basics, the man John Major had appointed Minister for the Environment and Countryside was forced to resign when the press revealed Yeo had fathered a ‘love child’ with a Tory councillor. The same month as Tim Yeo quit the Cabinet, John Major’s Government also lost its leading Peer when the Earl of Caithness resigned following the suicide of his wife, who had shot herself upon discovering her husband’s affair with another woman. The following month, Stephen Milligan – MP for Eastleigh, a former journalist and ‘rising star’ of the Tory Party – was found dead in his flat from apparent autoerotic asphyxiation, strangled by an electrical cord with an orange stuffed in his mouth; elements of cross-dressing and self-bondage made this bizarre, lurid tragedy a gift for the more sensationalist corners of Fleet Street. It also triggered a by-election that was won by the Liberal Democrats, dealing a further humiliating blow to John Major’s shaky administration.

But these weren’t the only scandals to affect the Conservatives in the middle of the 90s. There was also was the Cash-for-questions affair, involving ‘The Egyptian Grocer’ and Neil Hamilton – Minister for Deregulation and Corporate Affairs, no less – not to mention the dramatic downfall of Jonathan Aitken, Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Aitken’s libel proceedings against allegations by both the Guardian and ITV’s ‘World in Action’ dragged on for two years, but resulted in him being charged with perjury and perverting the course of justice and receiving a sentence of eighteen months behind bars. His cell wouldn’t be vacant for long, however.

Jeffrey Archer, one of the most public advocates of Back to Basics, was brought back into the Tory frontline by John Major, who elevated him to the peerage. Archer had evaded prosecution over the Anglia Television ‘shares affair’ in 1994, but when he was selected as Tory candidate for the London Mayoral Election five years later, Rupert Murdoch’s newfound love-in with Labour saw the News of the World dredge up Archer’s 1987 libel case against the Daily Star, when he had been found not guilty of paying a prostitute for her services, and was awarded £50,000 in damages. The new allegations that emerged in 1999 presented strong evidence that Archer had committed perjury during the 1987 libel trial by fabricating an alibi. The Tory Party immediately dropped him as their Mayoral candidate and expelled him from the party for five years. Archer was charged with perjury and perverting the course of justice in September 2000 and when the case came to trial in the summer of 2001, Archer was found guilty of the offence and sentenced to four years’ imprisonment, of which he served half.

Even though there was a gap of four years between Major’s Government being thrown out of office and Jeffrey Archer’s imprisonment, the fact that notable players in that administration were still being subjected to the long arm of the law underlined how the malodorous odour of corruption and sleaze continued to hover around the Tory Party like the scent of unwashed feet on a Twister mat. When former gaffe-prone Major Minister Edwina Currie later revealed she and Major were engaged in a four-year affair during the 1980s, it was the belated icing on an especially unappetising cake. As things currently stand, Theresa May has yet to bake an equivalent confection; but the stench emanating from the Downing Street kitchen is beginning to linger.

© The Editor

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mr-Yesterday-Johnny-Monroe/dp/154995718X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1510503885&sr=1-1

PRITI VACANT

Yes, it’s inevitable, but it’s also irresistible; and I’m going to say it. To lose one member of the Cabinet may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two seems like carelessness. Okay, I’ve said it, but Theresa May has lost it. Granted, she never really had it; her premiership has been a slow suicide from the off. But to have an already shaky administration disrupted twice in seven days raises yet more questions of leadership – or lack of. Boris putting his foot in it again is par for the course, but it didn’t matter as much when he was a chat-show backbencher or even Mayor of London; when you hold one of the four great offices of state, however, getting by on buffoonish charm isn’t enough – especially when the liberty of a British subject imprisoned in Iran could be threatened further by the Foreign Secretary’s clumsily cavalier attitude towards his job.

Boris is safe for the moment, though; in a Cabinet infected by subversive Remainers eager to throw a spanner in the Brexit works, a cheerleading Brexiteer like Boris is vital to uphold Theresa May’s pre-Election promise of a Hard Brexit. There’s also the old Lincoln maxim about keeping your friends close and your enemies closer, of course. It’s no coincidence the PM brought Michael Gove back into the fold; the prospect of Boris also exiled to the backbenches, given free rein to make mischief and plot her downfall from afar, is the kind of additional anxiety she could do without. Better to have those with an eye on her job in the same room, where she can see them – a bit like when teachers move the most troublesome pupils to the desks at the front of the classroom.

Gideon quitting as an MP to become full-time editor of the Evening Osborne undoubtedly helped the Prime Minister in the Commons, though his anti-May agenda being broadcast to Londoners on a daily basis must irk her. The forced resignation of her International Development Secretary, however, is a more pressing headache she could have done without. Patel’s error in meeting senior Israeli politicians in an unofficial capacity, and without Foreign Office clearance, may seem a minor infringement of diplomatic protocol, but whether or not her error was mere naivety or simple stupidity, the resulting furore left her position untenable.

The PM’s problem is losing a Bright Young Thing who contradicts the electorate’s image of privileged, privately-educated conveyor-belt Conservatives; and the last thing a Government bereft of a majority needs is to keep shedding members that make it look as if it couldn’t run the proverbial brewery piss-up.

Priti Patel was one of the Prime Minister’s predecessor’s pet projects to upgrade the public perception of the Conservative Party – young, photogenic and Asian. When David Cameron made a point of announcing he once met ‘a black man’ during the TV leaders’ debates during the 2010 General Election, it complemented his promotion of the unelected Baroness Warsi to his inner circle as Minister for Tokenism…sorry, Minister for Faith and Communities; the emergence of a figure such as Priti Patel, actually voted for by the electorate of Witham (in Essex), was a further feather in the Tory diversity cap. But a week on from the loss of Sex God Michael Fallon for the gross moral turpitude of touching the knee of an Express scribe fifteen years ago, the loss of a fairly inconsequential Parliamentarian is nevertheless another body blow to a PM who is widely regarded as being about as effective as a weak supply teacher incapable of controlling an unruly class.

Brexiteers without Portfolio such as Jacob Rees-Mogg have hinted that Priti Patel’s forced resignation was engineered by Cabinet Remainers, whereas Labour’s porky deputy Tom Watson has suggested the Foreign Office was aware of Patel’s presence in Israel whilst publicly claiming it had no idea what the International Development Secretary was up to on her ‘holiday’. Whatever the truth of Patel’s odd activities, the fact remains she’s lost her job in the May administration and the PM now has to undergo one more reshuffle that has been thrust upon her; but it seems resignations – voluntary or otherwise – are the only way Theresa May can be prompted into rearranging her Cabinet furniture.

Patel’s exit comes just hours before Brexit negotiations reach their sixth round; to use an FA Cup analogy, that means we’re only two games away from Wembley – or it did before football’s governing body decided the national stadium could be devalued further by hosting the competition’s semi-final matches as well. The Times today reported that the EU is preparing for ‘the fall of Theresa May before the New Year’ as a result of the past seven days, which will trigger ‘a change of leadership or elections leading to a Labour victory’. This was rebuffed by IDS on ‘Today’ this morning, though his belief that the PM is ‘the one person who can actually still unite the Cabinet, the country and the party’ says all you need to know about a man who blames the decline and fall of Western Civilisation on unmarried men.

For the moment, Theresa May will cling on – and on, and on; but it’s hard to come away from the latest car-crash without concluding this is a Government treading water, feeling more like the Major administration of the mid-90s or the Brown one of the late noughties than a party that technically won a General Election just five months ago. As has been pointed out before, however, the most accurate comparison one can make is with Jim Callaghan’s Government of 1976-79, particularly during the testing time following the collapse of the 1977/78 Lib-Lab Pact. What happens next is anyone’s guess; but I can guarantee it won’t be Priti.

© The Editor

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mr-Yesterday-Johnny-Monroe/dp/154995718X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1510235120&sr=1-1&dpID=41ppifNq5pL&preST=_SY344_BO1,204,203,200_QL70_&dpSrc=srch

YOUNG, FREE AND MENTAL

Two reports published within 24 hours of one another have yet again highlighted that, for all the heightened public awareness of mental illness in recent years, it remains socially stigmatising and seriously underfunded. The first report, ‘Thriving at Work’, commissioned by Our Glorious Leader no less, was a review of the way in which the workplace responds to those members of the workforce afflicted by various mental health symptoms. One sufferer of chronic depression, interviewed by the BBC in the wake of the report’s publication, was advised to look elsewhere for employment by her boss when she admitted her condition and was made to feel increasingly uncomfortable once it became common knowledge in the office; she left the job not long after, as do around 300,000 a year for similar reasons, costing employers upwards of £42bn.

The findings of the experts who compiled the report on behalf of the PM confirmed beliefs that mental illness has yet to fully shed its taboo status. At a time when the cry for an end to all discrimination based on race, religion and sexuality is at its loudest, it’s ironic that those whose needs are deemed most worthy of attention are those whose otherness is blatantly obvious in either the colour of their skin or the clothes they’re wearing – whether a lady in a burqa or a feller in a dress. Their ‘diversity’ is a virtual sandwich board of personal advertising, something that makes it easier for the majority to discern the difficulties of the minority.

By contrast, mental health symptoms being invisible to the naked eye always present its sufferers with a problem as to how it relates to those around them, unlike any physical illness. If the symptoms aren’t visible, it’s as though others are unconvinced there’s any sort of problem because they can’t see it like they can an arm in a sling or a leg in a cast, like they need to have it simplified in the most basic manner as proof the sufferer isn’t acting up. Mental illness is more challenging to the non-sufferer and can often spawn a sceptical attitude towards the condition as a consequence, almost forcing the sufferer to convince the doubters as if they were faking insanity to get out of the army. I’ve been confronted by it myself. ‘There’s nothing wrong with you; you’ve got two arms and two legs – what’s the problem? Depression is just another word for laziness.’

This attitude is in place from an early age. The second report into mental health to have appeared this week concentrated on the youth experience and how poorly served young sufferers are by the system. This review discovered almost 40% of services exclusive to children and adolescents in England were in desperate need of improvement. ‘The World at One’ covered the report by making a Freedom of Information request on the subject and discovered some children were having to wait up to 22 months before seeing a specialist mental health professional. I must admit these revelations didn’t strike me as particularly revelatory, however; anyone who has followed my regular posts on the severely mentally-handicapped child I’ve christened X probably won’t be surprised to learn X herself has endured gaps of a similar nature between such appointments.

The report was compiled by the Care Quality Commission, whereas earlier this year, NHS England published its own suggestions for improvement; ‘Five Year Forward View for Mental Health’. Claire Murdoch, head of mental health for NHS England claimed there has been an increase of 15% of spending on mental health services for the young over the past twelve months. ‘Without a doubt, after years of drought,’ she says, ‘the NHS’ mental health funding taps have now been turned on.’ As ever with the NHS, though, one wonders where the money goes; or, to maintain Ms Murdoch’s watery analogy, which plughole it’s destined to disappear down.

‘The World at One’ spoke to 22-year-old Alice Gibbs, who was diagnosed with anorexia at 12 and, after a six-month wait to see a specialist, received four years of treatment in her home city of Leicester, despite its limitations. There was an eating disorder unit in London she now reckons had the facilities to accelerate her recovery, but as a physically and mentally fragile 16-year-old, being away from the support of her family probably wouldn’t have helped either. Had somewhere of that unit’s calibre been closer to home, she surmises she wouldn’t have lost a decade to such a debilitating condition. Her experience seems to back up the ‘postcode lottery’ theory when it comes to healthcare.

Alice Gibbs is still receiving treatment, saying she has ‘managed’ her condition rather than cured it, something that anyone who has experienced mental illness will recognise; it’s always a case of management rather than cure, because there isn’t a cure. Alice Gibbs’ treatment could well be an obstacle to any career ambitions she harbours, though ‘Thriving at Work’ makes 40 recommendations to encourage employers to help their employees with mental health issues stay in their jobs. But it would seem it depends on who you work for. The insurer Aviva received special praise in the report, yet they seem to be the exception rather than the rule. On the whole, both of this week’s reports into mental illness don’t paint a very rosy picture of this country’s care for and treatment of those unfortunate enough to fall under its devastating shadow.

And whilst it makes a refreshing change to commend Theresa May for something – ‘It is only by making this an everyday concern for everyone,’ said the PM, ‘that we can change the way we see mental illness’ – we cannot neglect the callous disregard for sufferers of mental illness that her Government and its predecessor has presided over via its continuous use of Atos to decide whether or not someone is ‘faking it’ for benefits. The toxic legacy of the IDS era is still with us in the shape of Universal Credit, after all; and Mrs May won’t budge on that one. Giving with one hand and taking away with the other yet again.

© The Editor

https://www.epubli.de//shop/buch/Looking-for-Alison-Johnny-Monroe-9783745059861/63240

MAY TO OCTOBER

Let’s face it – this hasn’t been the best of weeks for Tory leaders past or present. A day after the incumbent coughed and spluttered her way through what was supposed to be the moment at this year’s Conservative Party Conference when she reasserted her authority, a predecessor not even alive to combat his critics has seen his name dragged through the mud once again by a provincial police force desperately seeking straws to clutch that it hopes will justify the vast expense squandered on its futile investigation into him. Heath cannot change history; that duty is in the hands of the revisionists. But Theresa May has had ample opportunities to change the present and she seems utterly incapable of doing so; like Gordon Brown before her, poor old Mrs May stumbles into one farcical cock-up after another with the disaster-prone finesse of a classic sitcom character – the sitcom in question being, of course, ‘The Thick of It’.

‘Building a country that works or everyone’ isn’t the most coherent message for the Government to employ as reassurance that the country is in safe hands, but that was the slogan behind the PM when she staged her painful performance in front of the faithful. Party Conference slogans are usually meaningless combinations of words probably concocted by highly-paid strategists during ‘brainstorming’ sessions, but the loss of an F on the one used yesterday actually worked if one interprets it as a fitting symbol for the clueless shower running the show at the moment. Even if one overlooks the dubious attractions of a week-long event with a speech by Theresa May as its intended highlight, the Conservative Party Conference 2017 has been bad by any party standards.

What with Boris Johnson not even bothering to conceal his credentials as a successor and a ‘comedy terrorist’ interrupting the PM by handing her a P45, the whole shambles has been a fitting funeral ceremony for the May administration. Whilst there might have been a degree of sympathy in the hall for the Prime Minister as someone way out of their depth struggled yet again to convince anyone beyond the most sycophantic toadies that she’s the right woman for the job, Tories are not renowned for sentiment when it comes to their leaders. At times, the PM’s speech was reminiscent of an especially bad ‘Dragon’s Den’ pitch, and backstage rumblings of a coup are gathering pace once more as the house of Conservative cards is perilously close to collapsing.

In some respects, many Tories must be relieved the ghost of one of Mrs May’s predecessors has resurfaced, mired in murky hearsay that makes her misdemeanours appear all the more comical. It probably helps too that Edward Heath remains the Conservative Prime Minister whose unpopularity in the party remains as mysteriously potent as it was when he lost two successive General Elections in 1974; the passage of time has not diminished the antipathy he inspired. Indeed, what is a remarkably awful keynote speech when sharing column inches with a headline such as the one I came across on Yahoo News today: Former PM ‘raped 11 year-old boy’? The inverted commas were in place, but that was simple libel-preventing common sense where an unproven accusation is concerned; not that many seeing such a headline will pay much attention to inverted commas.

Operation Conifer, the retarded country cousin of Operation Midland which has spent the last couple of years Hoovering up most of the dead wood from that discredited witch-hunt via the congenital liar ‘Nick’, has come to the conclusion that Ted Heath would have been interviewed during the £1.5 million inquiry had he still been alive; and that kind of curious, nonsensical logic could be applied to practically any situation that didn’t actually happen.

Had Hitler not committed suicide in his bunker, he would have stood trial for war crimes at Nuremburg; had Gordon Smith not fluffed it in front of goal during the dying seconds of the 1983 FA Cup Final, Brighton and Hove Albion would have beaten Manchester United and won the trophy; had I been born twenty-five years earlier in Liverpool, I could have been the fifth Beatle. But, lest we forget, the Wiltshire Constabulary carried out their fishing party not to address the issue of Heath’s guilt or innocence, but to see whether there was a substantial amount of evidence to have interviewed the former Prime Minister, even though he inconveniently died a decade before they began it. Why didn’t they just reunite the ‘Time Team’ crowd and let them dig-up Heath’s back garden?

Are the tax-payers of Wiltshire so financially secure that they can afford the luxury of an existential police force? The county’s boys in blue have devoted the past couple of years to pondering on what they view as a perplexing conundrum – would Ted Heath have been interviewed under caution over allegations he raped an 11-year-old boy in 1961 if he were still alive? Hmmm, that’s a tricky one; let’s spend over a million quid coming up with the answer. Two years down the line, they’ve decided seven of the accusations would have warranted an interview under caution. Well done, lads. A pity the Woodentop who stood in front of Heath’s home and encouraged ‘victims to come forward’ isn’t around to crack open the bubbly, what with him being signed-off on long-term sick leave, but you can’t have everything.

The 100-page ‘summary closure report’ into Operation Conifer claims ‘no inference of guilt’ should arise from the fact Heath would have been interviewed under caution where seven of the 42 accusations are concerned; moreover, Dr Rachel Hoskins examined the so-called evidence last November and came to the conclusion that it ‘exposed a catalogue of fabrication’; she also dismissed the widely-publicised ‘Satanic’ angle so beloved of Icke disciples, advising the police to abandon the investigation. The police ignored her advice, and Operation Conifer has neither proven nor dispelled any of the rumours surrounding Heath whilst costing a small fortune in the process. All we know from its findings is that Ted kept his hands to himself throughout his tenure at No.10, as none of the allegations date from that period, funnily enough. He wasn’t daft, was he?

So, whatever Theresa May puts her foot in next, she can at least be content with the fact that it can’t top Satanic ritual abuse of minors. However, let’s see where we stand forty years hence. They’re a funny lot, those Tories, so you never know…

© The Editor

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CARROTS FOR ALL

Theresa May doesn’t want to be surrounded by Yes Men, and it seems she’s got what she wants. Not that she appears to listen to members of her Cabinet, anyway, whether or not they tell her what she wants to hear. Holding court in a Cabinet Office that must have had its walls removed and replaced with a giant sieve, the PM is presiding over a team that is behaving as though the collective responsibility her predecessor dispensed with during the EU Referendum still applies. Boris has been laying out his own personal manifesto via newspaper columns in recent weeks, yet Mrs May is keeping her Foreign Secretary on a very slack leash indeed. It’s a curious approach to take into the Party Conference Season, though policy promises have been raining down on the electorate during the Tory outing to Manchester, as though we’re on the eve of a General Election rather than living in the aftermath of one.

It goes without saying that what we’re getting is the usual series of suggestions designed to either attract or pacify a particular demographic that has so far been impervious to the charms of the PM’s shower. The youth vote, so crucial to the rise of Jezza, is one the Government are desperate to entice, yet even if many of Corbyn’s pledges might prove harder to implement when in office than in opposition, Mrs May is trying her best to lure The Kids into the blue corner. Don’t get me wrong – I wince whenever I hear the ‘Oh, Jeremy Corbyn’ chant and curse the fact that the melody stolen from The White Stripes’ ‘Seven Nation Army’ is ruining what I think of as one of the best rock songs of the last 20 years; but the Tories trying to come on all hip ‘n’ groovy is still akin to a ‘Grime Night’ being held at a Home Counties golf-club.

Mental health is another issue the Government are keen to be seen doing something about; but, as was so memorably stated in ‘This is Spinal Tap’, money talks and bullshit walks. Throwing vast amounts of cash at public services being badly-run, whether the NHS or the social care system, isn’t good enough when the majority of the money is simply used to enhance the pension schemes and pay the mortgages of the careerist freeloaders clogging up the impenetrable layers of management that require a bloody great scythe taking to them instead of being reinforced like the rotten foundations of a stately home. But, of course, we’re in the quick fix territory of short-term solutions to long-term problems; the Government is showing the same amount of imagination as someone who gives you money for your birthday because they can’t think of a fitting present.

Another side to the PM’s character that is being highlighted during the current chaotic condition of her administration is her stubbornness on an unwelcome legacy from her predecessor’s regime – Universal Credit. The catch-all cock-up conceived by Iain Duncan Smith is supposed to group together six existing benefits – including Jobseeker’s Allowance, Housing Benefit, Income Support, and Employment & Support Allowance – under one all-encompassing umbrella benefit, but the scheme has had its critics from day one and the suspicion is that Mrs May and her DWP Tsar David Gauke are reluctant to put the project on ice and are pressing ahead whilst ignoring warnings because they’re fearful of being accused of yet another U-turn.

Many of those entitled to Universal Credit residing in parts of the country where the benefit has already been ‘rolled out’ have had to wait upwards of six weeks to receive any payments and have been pushed into rent arrears as a consequence. Dame Louise Casey, a social policy adviser to governments of both colours for 18 years, has urged the PM to take a closer look at what impact Universal Credit stands to have on individuals and families who are already perched on the precipice of poverty before the damage is done. Government estimates predict seven million households will be in receipt of Universal Credit within the next five years, but despite the Citizens Advice Bureau and several Tory backbenchers sharing the same concerns as Dame Louise, it would appear the plans are going ahead regardless of her belief that some families ‘will end up in dire circumstances, more dire than I think we have seen in this country for years’.

If, as history tells us, it was once perfectly legitimate for landlords to place the notorious ‘No Irish, No Dogs, No Blacks’ sign in the windows of their properties, it was also once okay for them to say ‘No DHSS’, and far more recently at that; I came across it myself several times when looking for somewhere to live around fifteen years ago. I learnt to keep quiet and worked out that paying my rent in person without the DHSS paying it direct to the landlord was one way to get around the discrimination; and while I’m not sure where the law stands in terms of who landlords can and cannot refuse tenancies to today, it would appear they routinely turn away anyone whose income falls under the ‘Universal Credit’ banner. For some, it’s a vicious circle; they can’t get work without a fixed abode and they can’t get a fixed abode because they’re claiming Universal Credit…on account of not being able to get work.

One of the Conservative MPs calling for a rethink on Universal Credit, Stephen McPartland, says ‘with every pound (claimants) earn, the Government’s taking 63p back off them; to me, that is an effective tax rate of 63%…so the lowest paid are effectively having to pay some of the highest taxes’. The CAB concluded Universal Credit claimants on average have less than £4 a month to pay creditors after covering the cost of living; the organisation’s chief executive Gillian Guy said ‘if the Government continues to take this stubborn approach to the expansion of Universal Credit, it risks pushing thousands of families into a spiral of debt, and placing an even greater strain on public services’.

But Mrs May is too busy pruning the remaining leaves from the magic money tree in the Downing Street garden to listen; if she can toss its off-cuts in the direction of those she assumes will translate them into a solution to their problems, she’s done her job. To be fair, there doesn’t seem much point in her looking at the long-term, anyway.

© The Editor

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THE WALKING DEAD

The most unwelcome endorsement a football manager can ever receive when his team’s results are going against him is that of his club chairman; a public statement that a boss has the full support of the board is traditionally a prelude to the chop. The fact that Boris Johnson has given his backing to Theresa May when the Prime Minister has proven yet again precisely how blind she is to her own shortcomings as PM isn’t necessarily something she should take as an indication she’ll still be around come the next General Election. After all, Boris’s own Downing Street ambitions remain unfulfilled and received a renewed boost following the far-from convincing performance of the Government on June 8. The next Election is pencilled-in for 2022 – just as the last one was pencilled-in for 2020. However, Mrs May’s fellow Tories aren’t exactly queuing-up to echo the Foreign Secretary’s dubious confidence in the PM.

Former Conservative Party co-chairman Grant Shapps remarked that Mrs May’s comments about going on and on were ‘too early’, whilst those who lost their job when May took up hers – such as ex-Education Secretary Nicky Morgan and Evening Standard editor George Osborne – were a little blunter when it came to the PM’s future. Tory grandee (and prominent Remainer) Michael Heseltine said ‘The long term is a difficult one for Theresa May because I don’t think she’s got one.’ Theresa May, on the other hand, has declared ‘Yes, I’m here for the long term…not just delivering on Brexit, but delivering a brighter future for the UK.’ To paraphrase Mandy Rice-Davies, well – she would say that, wouldn’t she?

Many reckon Theresa May has managed to cling on due to the Brexit factor; others see the fact she’s still at No.10 is testament to the dearth of a talented contender in her Cabinet. Not that there aren’t a few in there who fancy her job. Boris Johnson may have been thwarted at the eleventh hour courtesy of Michael Gove last year, but May’s unconvincing leadership has given him fresh hope. When your most ringing endorsement emanates from a man who stands to gain the most from your continuing presence as a weak leader, it doesn’t bode well for ‘going on and on’.

The situation for the Tories in terms of a leadership challenge isn’t that dissimilar to the situation Labour found itself in when Gordon Brown lost the 2010 General Election. Granted, in the Conservative case, an ineffective leader unpopular with the general public did actually manage to scramble across the finishing line, but the victory came at a catastrophic cost, most of which has been spent paying the DUP; and the candidates to succeed her are hardly outstanding. Even if one takes a mercurial clown such as Boris out of the equation, we’re faced with a dullard like Philip Hammond or a dimwit like David Davis.

If the Tories regarded Jeremy Corbyn as their greatest electoral asset in the arrogant run-up to the last campaign, Jezza’s strong showing on polling day forced them to examine their own lack of assets; and the only Tories to have failed to come to the conclusion that their frontbench was a pretty woeful collection of nonentities were those too distracted by their self-interested egos to realise they were as mediocre as the next man. All will hope Mrs May stays where she is for the time being, as will the Labour Party; any Prime Minister who can lose a safe Parliamentary majority and can instil such apathy in the electorate as the PM has achieved over the past four months is a far more encouraging opponent than a strong leader with a landslide to her name.

In between bigging-up her ability to survive and prosper, the Prime Minister was waffling on about a ‘Global Britain’ as a means of proving to the doubters that we can trade beyond the borders of Europe without any economic upset; she also came out with the kind of meaningless statement re dealing with ‘those injustices domestically that we need to do to ensure that strong, more global, but also fairer Britain for the future’ that she delivered from the Downing Street lectern the day she moved into No.10. Well, she was able to shoehorn ‘strong’ into her spiel, though ‘stable’ was notable by its absence. At best, the furthest date from the here and now she can feasibly make it to whilst staying in the top job is probably the day we officially withdraw from the EU in March 2019; the thought that she could still be around three years later is inconceivable to anyone other than Theresa May – and…er…Boris Johnson.

The PM cited the example of her predecessor as to how announcing one’s intentions can prematurely curtail one’s premiership; but even though David Cameron revealed he was planning to step down after serving two full terms, there’s no doubt he would still be in the job today had the British public voted Remain rather than Leave last year – and he’d have almost three years left to go. Unlike Dave, Theresa May is head of a minority administration, and having to depend upon obstinate Ulstermen to prop her up is not exactly the most strong or stable foundation for planning to go on and on.

Theresa May is in the most vulnerable position of any British Prime Minister since Jim Callaghan, and were the country not engaged in an unprecedented diplomatic disentanglement that doesn’t need the additional headache of yet another Tory leadership battle, she wouldn’t simply be a dead woman walking; politically, she’d just be dead.

© The Editor

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THEY’RE ALL GOING ON A SUMMER HOLIDAY

It may not be a long hot summer ahead of us – give or take the odd ‘phew, what a scorcher’ day – but it promises to be one in which our nation’s elected representatives plan and plot their enticing battle strategies for the autumn. As Westminster covers its furniture for a couple of months, MPs return to their constituencies and prepare not so much for government as for the next stage of the war. Being an observer and writer on events of this nature, I find these are invigorating times to be doing so. In the last three years, we’ve had two referendums (one regional, one national) and two General Elections; and none appear to have resolved any of the issues that prompted them in the first place. We seem to be in a permanent, if fascinating, state of flux.

I was talking to a friend the other day on how cinema and television mirror the political uncertainties of the day in their output; current offerings from ‘A Handmaid’s Tale’ to ‘The Walking Dead’ and even the revived ‘Planet of the Apes’ series seem to me to reflect the mistrust and diminishing faith in the institutions that govern western society, a factor that has gathered pace post-9/11 and in the wake of the 2008 financial crash. Interestingly, the last time this trend was so prominent was back in the 70s – with everything from ‘Survivors’ and ‘The Changes’ on the small screen to ‘Network’, ‘The Omega Man’, ‘Logan’s Run’ and ‘A Clockwork Orange’ on the big screen, dystopian portrayals of the near-future that characterised the contemporary concerns of the era that produced them.

Go back to the 50s – supposedly a far more stable era – yet we have the likes of ‘Invasion of the Body-Snatchers’ acting as a metaphor for McCarthyism, ‘Quatermass’ satirising the pre-war establishment’s flirtations with fascism as the British ruling class is infiltrated by aliens, and the post-Hiroshima fear of what the Atom Bomb left in its wake manifested as mutant creatures in ‘Tarantula’ or the Godzilla movies. After a rare bout of international optimism in the 90s – following celebrated events such as the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, the release of Nelson Mandela and the end of apartheid that followed it – the shift in mood that for those on the left has been exacerbated by Brexit or the election of Trump has resulted in a return to the apocalyptic narrative in fiction.

How this relates to the current state of play in Blighty is easier to describe in escapist terms via the fresh upsurge in fantasy trash such as ‘Love Island’ or the ongoing and increasingly desperate talent show franchise acting as television ostriches with heads firmly buried in the sand. When the TV news is so relentless in its assault on the lingering shreds of naive belief that things can only get better, however, it’s no wonder the populace turns to the modern-day equivalent of the dance marathons of the Great Depression for superficial consolation or even the comforting embrace of Regency England in the likes of ‘Poldark’.

In a way, it’s no great surprise that this has happened when the public look to their leaders for guidance and see people at the top who appear to have such a slender grip on power that it could slip away at any given moment. When one considers we have a minority Government led by a Prime Minister so in denial of her own shortcomings and eager to enter into deals with anyone that can provide her administration with the illusion of strength and stability, whether Trump, the DUP or Saudi Arabia, it doesn’t inspire much in the way of confidence. Theresa May now takes time out from what must have been a personally devastating couple of months for her to calculate how she can survive until the end of the Brexit negotiations two years hence. She’ll dust herself down for the party conference season in September, but she knows the knives are out within her own Cabinet and she’s very much living on borrowed time. Who would envy her?

A year ago, it was Jeremy Corbyn who was facing assaults from his own side, yet Jezza has emerged from the wreckage of the General Election with his position undoubtedly strengthened and his Labour opponents weakened. His remarkable winning over of the general public from such a lowly starting point has both shown the irrelevance of Fleet Street in dictating opinion and how people respond positively to the relative novelty of a politician who seems to have genuine beliefs that aren’t necessarily dependent on the shifting sands of the consensus. His response to recent terrorist events and Grenfell have captured the public mood far more effectively than May’s awkward and stilted reaction, something that won’t do him any harm come the next visit to the polling station, whenever that may be.

The euphoric mood of the Corbyn wing of the Labour Party right now couldn’t contrast greater with the shambolic infighting of the Tories, and it certainly feels that electioneering for them didn’t end on June 8. Few would argue that should the realistic possibility of another General Election at any time over the next few months come to pass, Labour appear more likely to win it than the Conservatives; and the Conservatives are all-too aware of this, which is why they’re putting the inevitable leadership contest on hold for the time being. It doesn’t say much for their prospects that the attitude they’ve adopted seems to be ‘any Prime Minister is better than no Prime Minister’.

The reduced ambition of the Lib Dems, despite moderately increasing their Parliamentary head-count after the wipe-out of 2015, has been reflected in the unopposed election of Vince Cable as leader; this backwards step is reminiscent of when the Tories had Michael Howard in the hot-seat after William Hague’s retirement in 2001, almost an admission of irrelevance. Pursuing an anti-Brexit policy that includes a desire for another EU Referendum might win them a few fans amongst diehard Remainers, but the wider electorate have already accepted Brexit and just want it to be over and done with as quickly as possible.

So, the recess is with us and the respective parties are taking a break from daily duties in the Commons; but as Mrs May heads off for a hike in the Welsh mountains and Mr Corbyn retreats to his allotment, I doubt either will view the summer as a holiday. Both have challenges ahead of them that negate putting their feet up, and the business of either running the country or preparing to run it won’t pause just because there are sandcastles waiting to be built.

© The Editor

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LAST TRAIN TO MAIDENHEAD

The temporary suspension of collective responsibility within a Cabinet by a serving Prime Minister is not a decision taken lightly by the man/woman in charge; more often than not, the ramifications of releasing the shackles of the party line can give the individual Ministers an appetite for expressing personal opinions that they remain reluctant to relinquish thereafter. At the time of the 1975 EEC Referendum, Harold Wilson may have got the eventual result he wanted; but it’s arguable the left/right divide within Labour that was given such a public platform during the campaign sowed the seeds for the split that did so much damage to the party in the 80s.

Similarly, David Cameron giving free rein to the Brexiteers within his own Cabinet last year continues to threaten unity at the highest level; not only did the result of the EU Referendum cost Dave his job, but it seems to have started a trend amongst Ministers to publicly disagree with one another on a regular basis, something the shaky outcome of the General Election seems to have exacerbated. Theresa May’s weak authority and inability to keep a lid on Cabinet conferences has played its part in the publicised bickering between prominent members of that Cabinet; Brexit remains the most divisive issue, but at the moment one feels as though if one person sat around the table at No.10 didn’t care much for the digestive biscuits provided, the nation would know about it within hours.

Chancellor Philip Hammond is the current target surrounding many of the leaks, accused by one unnamed colleague of trying to ‘f*** up Brexit’ and by another of claiming ‘even a woman can drive a train’ when public sector pay was under discussion. Of course, many of those feeding these stories from Downing Street to the press are rather eager to make the PM’s residence their address for the next four or five years, and the headlines reflect the struggle to topple Mrs May that is undeniably underway. She might hope threatening them with ‘it’s me or Corbyn’ will dampen the jostling for succession over the summer recess; but the hard slog of running a minority administration with a Cabinet of power-hungry backstabbers has the potential to break even a deluded martinet like Theresa May come the autumn.

Another divisive issue that has been around longer than Brexit and may well outlast it is that of HS2. The latest news of the proposed route for the white elephant express has added a layer of irony to a housing crisis in which not enough new or affordable homes are being built. It emerged yesterday that the planned eastern route of the line – from Leeds to Birmingham – will run east of Sheffield and not be served by any new stations in South Yorkshire; using Sheffield’s main city centre station means the route will plough through a newly-built housing estate in nearby Mexborough. The official Government statement claims only 16 of the 216 homes will make way for the line, but sceptical residents don’t accept this; they also question the compensation payments they’ll be entitled to that the Government initially said would enable them to purchase another home of equivalent value in the area.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling bigged-up the scheme yet again in the Commons yesterday and attempted to dismiss its numerous critics by reading from the usual ‘economic benefits’ script that accompanies any project in which people stand to lose both homes and businesses; but when one recalls Grayling’s abysmal performances in his previous Ministerial posts, any reassurances from him are hardly likely to fill those in HS2’s firing line with confidence. The South Yorkshire section of the route was unveiled a year ago, but confirmation of it yesterday prompted Rotherham’s Labour MP Sarah Champion to tweet ‘South Yorkshire will now get all of the disruption of HS2 without the benefit.’

As one resident of the new Mexborough estate that will be partially demolished to make way for the line said, ‘Bear in mind this is the construction of a viaduct that’s going to be 20ft in the sky coming within 10ft of your property, and they say, “it’s okay, your property isn’t one that has to be knocked down”.’ The construction of London’s Westway flyover in the late 60s caused similar damage as it cut a brutal swathe through North Kensington, whereas an entire centuries-old village was obliterated by the building of the Scammonden Dam and Reservoir that comprised the construction of the M62 motorway during the same period. Any project of this nature tends to dramatically alter the landscape and affect those that inhabit it, but such disruption in recent decades has largely been down to accommodating the motorcar; the railways were last the source of such opposition and upset in the nineteenth century.

HS2 was a contentious subject in Government circles long before Theresa May seized power and will remain so for her successor, whoever that may be. The route will pass through upwards of 70 Parliamentary constituencies and MPs have been inundated with demands from constituents to vote against the scheme, many of them Tories. The official Government line on HS2 is currently holding steady, but the PM’s failure to prevent leaks and to gag her most outspoken Ministers at the moment suggests if any issue that divides the public is just as likely to divide the Cabinet, chances are we’ll find out about it pretty quickly. When her position is somewhat perilous to say the least, Theresa May can ill-afford to allow the current state of play to continue; but it would appear she’s already lost the battle.

© The Editor

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