October 31, 2017

Fallon shouldn't be sacked for touching JHB's knees

Fallon shouldn't be sacked because he touched Julia Hartley-Brewer's knees all those years ago.

I don't know whether there is a Mrs Fallon now, or if there was one then. That isn't my concern.

MPs' expenses are more important to me as a voter than MPs' conduct with their staff. When MPs fiddle their expenses, that is a crime against me as a taxpayer. When they fondle an assistant, that is between them, and I do not see that as a taxpayer or voter I am harmed.

MPs are getting excited about sexual misconduct. It's easy for them to understand, much easier than say getting to grips with Brexit, or thinking of spending cuts to pay for the tax reductions they call for in the budget.

By making much of MPs' sexual conduct, Theresa May loses control of events. Just as Rajoy is at the mercy now of events in Catalonia after taking over the reins of government, so May's options in keeping or firing ministers may be dictated by disclosures in the tabloids.

It's only proper, then, to be amused by the emergence of the name of Damian Green today. He is after all her lieutenant, the man she leans on most in her hapless attempt to look even remotely in control at Number Ten.

Should Damian Green be sacked for being frisky in the back of taxis? I don't care about that. I would, though, like to see him sacked for being a useless immigration minister under Theresa May, and for being perfectly open that he would still vote Remain if the referendum were rerun now.

Just as Fallon should not be sacked for touching Julia Hartley-Brewer's knees (even though he seems to have done it several times). Fallon should be sacked because he is a useless minister, time expired, failed, the Defence Ministry under him out of control.

It is long past time for Fallon to be replaced with one of the up-and-coming younger Ministers who should be given a chance to show their paces. (Though dull leaders are more at ease with dull subordinates.)

That - and only that - is why Fallon should go, and go now.

October 29, 2017

The Remainer Rage of Nick Cohen

We have seen the Labour MP Barry Sheerman claiming that Remain voters were more educated than Leave voters. Would that be all Remain voters versus all Leave voters, or would Barry concede some overlap? Anyway, quite what conclusion he would draw from this I don't know. In a democracy are the votes of the more educated to be treasured more highly than the votes of those with fewer educational qualifications? Does lack of further or higher education somehow invalidate a vote in a democracy? Long gone are the days when graduates of Oxford and Cambridge had a second vote. Judging by Chris Bickerton's article in the Sunday Times today (£), a good thing too.

Incidentally, one wonders if Barry Sneerman Sheerman has looked at the educational qualifications of those who voted for him in the general election, rather than for his opponents. The snooty snobbery of this Labour MP - yes, a Labour MP - is a wonder to behold.

The Guardian has served us up an ant-Brexit article by Nick Cohen. Usually a controlled writer, he has dived off the deep end and the result is a splenetic Remain piece which can only trouble Leavers’ funny bones. What intellectual snobbery is on display as he looks down his nose at those prejudiced Leavers, who had the effrontery to reject his world-view.

It is an article any troubled Leavers should tuck away. Should you in the future start to doubt yourself, or wonder if Remainers really did have cool logic on their side after all, dig out this article again, and be reassured that being highly educated is not a guarantee of talking coherent sense.

Where, he asks,  are Britain’s leaders who will tell 17.4m voters that the Brexit they were promised cannot be cashed? Oh yes, that would be the unemployment, the recession that the great and the good promised us, economic promises that have not been delivered.

Hand-wringing Remainers like Philip Hammond assert that we did not Vote Leave in order to be poorer. Actually, yes we did. You told us we would be poorer but we still voted to leave, because we wanted our democracy back. Democracy. Get that, Philip?

Meanwhile, on a Sunday morning to make you smile, enjoy the sight of Nick Cohen incoherent with Remainer Rage.

Enjoying Catalonia

What has happened to Catalan public opinion since the leaders of Spain and Catalonia started squaring up to each other?

Today we have some opinion poll data.

The BBC reports that 52% (against 43%) favour the dissolution of the regional parliament and the holding of elections. 55% of Catalan respondents opposed the declaration of independence, with 41% in favour.

The question is: can Rajoy’s heavy-handedness snatch defeat from  the jaws of victory?

Enthralling though the present standoff is, one can imagine that in twelve months’ time it may look like a storm in a teacup.

But meanwhile let us be honest - the squirming of the EU is a joy to watch. As is the embarrassment of the SNP.

October 12, 2017

A sleb ventilates

Oh it was horrible. I literally cannot describe what he did. But it was horrible. It scarred me. I went on to have a husband and family, but what he did scarred me.

(Publicist: Yes, Ms Sleb will take questions)

Who did you tell?

Obviously I couldn't tell my parents. They would have been so upset. It was important to me that my boyfriends and my husbands saw me as the whole, normal person that I am, so I hid my scars from them, even though those wounds festered deep inside me. My analysts said I should do whatever was right for me, and try to come to terms with my deep hurt, and, you know, I tried. But I couldn't, I just couldn't.

Did he help you become famous and make a lot of money?

That is not what this is about! It is about my integrity as a person, as a human being.

When did you decide that you had to speak out about your hurt?

Well, I saw others talking about their hurts, and I thought, yes, I have bottled it up all these years, I am hurting so much, it is time for me to be brave and speak out. I mean, nothing has happened to them, so I can talk about myself too. The sympathy and the love and the publicity they are getting ...

(Publicist whispers to sleb)

It was so nasty. It was so horrible. How could I not speak out? You can all see now what a vile person he is.

You kept it quiet all these years. If he is so bad, how many more women do you think your silence has put in harm's way? How can someone so wonderful live with that?

(Publicist: Thank you all for coming)

October 11, 2017

The plumptious smugness of Dame Jenni Murray

Can Dame Jenni Murray be as self-satisfied as she seems?

According to The Times diary, Jenni Murray once asked Margaret Thatcher what it was like to be a woman Prime Minister. There was an icy pause before she replied that she was not a woman Prime Minister but the Prime Minister. “One reviewer, Murray fondly recalled, described it as the only time his radio had frozen over.”

At the Durham book festival Murray said this was one of her greatest achievements - to silence Margaret Thatcher.

Did the Dame not understand what was going on here? Margaret Thatcher was being the true feminist. She was actually correcting the Dame. But the Dame was too self-regarding to notice.

And so she evidently remains.

October 09, 2017

The scandalous Heath "investigation" raises more questions

Mark Wallace has written about the scandalous Wiltshire police investigation into Edward Heath, which is looking increasingly flawed.

"The decision to investigate such serious claims, against Heath or anyone else, is not in question", he writes. Indeed it is. The accused was already dead. The police should have better things to do with our money.

Where is the Police and Crime Commissioner in all this? Just sitting on his hands?

Is anyone trying to discover whether this is the force's view or whether Veale is out on his own here?

And - given the huge flaws emerging - is this Wiltshire Police's standard level of competence?

Veale is overdue to be sacked, and journalists should be digging deeper.

September 20, 2017

Spanish jackboot on Catalonia

This is astonishing.
Spanish gendarmes have raided at least four Catalan ministries amid escalating tension ahead of the independence referendum.
The Spanish authorities, on Monday, also seized control of Catalonia's finances in what [the Catalan vice president] called "total irresponsibility" that would lead the region "to an administrative collapse".
Indeed. "This means that from now on [Catalan leaders] no longer have their money," a Spanish budget ministry spokeswoman said. Oh, well done.

And Spain has accused 740 Catalan mayors of abuse of office. But this is not just a political accusation, the first of them is actually about to go on trial.

The Spanish Foreign Minister says referenda are undemocratic because Franco used them. Orwell would be be proud. Tell that to the Swiss.

September 19, 2017

Despise gutless May

I thought I loathed and despised Theresa May more than anyone else (and I should be a natural Tory voter, by the way). Apparently not. Rachel Sylvester tells it as it is in The Times: May is weak & incompetent, her conduct of government outrageous.

Whatever were Tory MPs thinking of when they voted for her?

Green shoots on Theresa May's magic money tree. The RSPB received £27.5 million in grants from UK taxpayers in 2015 and 2016. Why? Donating to the RSPB is a decision for individuals to make. But gutless May keeps the money coming.

More importantly, scientists say the world is warming more slowly than they had predicted. Oops, it seems we over-estimated climate sensitivity to increasing amounts of carbon dioxide.

But this is still tiptoeing round the problem. The pattern of intermittent temperature changes offers no evidence that they are determined by the small changes in atmospheric CO2. This false science has made the world poorer. Yet gutless May continues to toss away our money in order to make us poorer. Truly a politician to despise.

Get on with your day job, Amber

Head girl Amber Rudd has an inflated sense of her own importance. She feels entitled to criticise the Foreign Secretary on the Marr programme for back seat driving. But what is she doing about her own responsibilities?

One of the major elements of Brexit is taking back control of EU immigration. Never mind that her predecessor, the astonishingly inadequate Mrs May, failed to grip immigration from the rest of the world. It's incumbent on Ms Rudd to do a better job on immigration than her boss. No sign of that so far.

Her area of responsibility also includes what to do about jihadi attacks. So far, the answer seems to be: As little as possible. As Piers Morgan reminds us
On March 22, jihadi Khalid Masood drove a car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, before stabbing a policeman to death at the entrance to Parliament. Four other people died, 50 were wounded.

On May 22, jihadi Salman Abedi blew up a bomb outside the Manchester Arena as thousands left an Ariana Grande concert. Twenty-two people were killed, including many children. Another 250 were injured, many seriously.

On June 3, three jihadis - Khuram Butt, Rachid Redouane and Youssef Zaghba – drove into pedestrians on London Bridge, before going on a stabbing rampage at nearby Borough Market. They killed eight people and wounded 40 others.
And since then we have had Parsons Green.

How much more of this are we expected to tolerate? Suppose the Parsons Green bomber had been competent. Would we just have heard little Sadiq saying that this is the sort of thing we must expect in a big city? Would we have heard local government leaders saying that diversity makes us stronger? - whatever that means. Would useless May just have tried to administer more bromide?

As Piers says, we can all talk a big, bold game about ‘never surrendering’, ‘staying strong’ and ‘being resilient’.

But we're entitled to ask: if the tens of thousands of disaffected Islamists in our midst start to pull together, what is the government's policy to be?

Ms Rudd would be the lead minister on this. But she has given us no clue.

Because Amber Rudd probably has no clue.

September 17, 2017

Times journalists can't tell their 'hard' from 'hard'

Sometimes it is the little off the cuff remarks that tell us most about the speaker or the writer. Listening to PMQs, we can learn more about about a Prime Minister's mindset from their passing comments than from the official scripted answers.

Rachel Sylvester and Alice Thomson have written a pleasant enough account of an interview with Caroline Flint. Not exactly probing, and they don't seem to have asked any other politicians for their opinions of her, but it's a relaxing read even if it's hard to see why it took two reporters to produce it (job sharing?).

One comment jumps out:
With Labour dominated by the hard left and the Tories pursuing a hard Brexit, the centre ground appears to have been hollowed out.
These are probably not Caroline Flint's words - apart from anything else, she would never have said that on the record about Labour. So they are the summary of the Times journalists.

They paint the two types of 'hard' as two political extremes: on the one side, the hard left, on the other side, a hard Brexit. Thus to them centre ground 'appears to have been hollowed out' (whatever that may mean).

So centrists are caught between hard left and hard Brexit. Is there any other kind of Brexit? A 'hard' Brexit would involve leaving the single market and the customs union. Which is precisely what we were told we would be voting for if we voted Leave in the referendum. So there is not hard Brexit and soft Brexit, there is Brexit and pseudo-Brexit.

The reporters take it on themselves to imply that 'hard' Brexit is somehow as extreme as the 'hard' left. As an alternative to the hard left there is the soft left. As an alternative to what these journalists call 'hard' Brexit, there is only non-Brexit, pretend Brexit.

The problem for these presumptuous journalists is that a record number of Brits voted for Brexit.

If it is only the Tories who are 'pursuing' the will of the people, then shame on the others.

Let's tell it as it is. Centrists are not trapped between hard left and hard Brexit. They are (apparently) trapped between the hard left and hard democracy.

But Rachel and Alice can't handle this 'hard' truth.