August 03, 2017

Thursday politics

At school we were disciplined not to judge actions in history by the moral fashions of today. But I find it impossible not to be disgusted by the politicians and commanders in the First World War.

This is partly because the history is relatively recent, but mainly because of our √©lite's commemoration ceremonies. Of course they emphasise "sacrifice" and "heroism" and don't glorify the slaughter. But the calm, contemplative  ceremonies act as a salve.

I want to howl with fury thinking of the thousands forced into the terror of war and horrific wounds and ghastly deaths. The ceremonies themselves provoke that outrage. It just was not all right to force my grandfathers' generation to be fodder for the machine guns, in deep mud. Stately mourning has its place, but for me the overwhelming reaction to the state's embrace of this carnage back then is rage.


"Public" bodies funded by the state are out of control. They're usually described as "publicly funded", as if that makes them sound somehow benign. In fact they're paid for by taxpayers, but we don't get to sit at the table. He who pays the piper calls the tune, it is said. Not in our case. No one seems to be able to curb the pay and empires of hospital managers. Now the spotlight is turning on to administrators at universities, many of which are not much good anyway. We wait to see whether Jo Johnson will join Jeremy Hunt in the pit of uselessness.

Why does this fall to a middle ranking minister anyway? Secretaries of State are busying themselves with passing the energy prices parcel, or getting into trouble over gender fluidity - where the government deserves all the enemy fire it has chosen to march towards.

Doubtless all this was approved by the inadequate in Number 10. The Tories are hugely to blame for choosing a leader so predictably and obviously useless.


Would I like to canvass for the Tories? No ... why ever would I want to do that? They want to throw money we haven't got at Hinkley Point C, and HS2. There's no business case for either. And they don't even have the excuse that these projects are popular. At DIFID Priti Patel has gone native, and Philip Hammond is continuing his blithe contempt for his electorate by proclaiming aid for Brazil.

What is this hapless government doing that might be popular? Why would  I want to campaign for this shower?


Remainers profess astonishment at a recent opinion poll showing many Leavers would still want to Brexit even if it damaged our economy. Cue much tutting and shaking of heads.

This is wholly unsurprising. A cast of the great and the good warned us of dire economic consequences if we voted Leave. None of them have come to pass so far, so it's hard to see why Leavers' resolve would have been dented.

Brexit is about sovereignty.

Our politicians and commentators intone that we do not wish the EU ill. It's not reciprocated. They demand their citizens living here should have the protection of the ECJ. This imperialism ("civis EU sum") must be intended to provoke. If I settle in Spain, I don't expect to be able to be able to appeal to courts in London, despite the growing evidence of Spanish corruption. If you choose to live in another country, you live by their laws (even if you chose Venezuela). The EU understands this, of course. When they are being deliberately unreasonable, why would it be wrong for me to wish their edifice harm?

July 20, 2017

Who wants immigration?

So now we know. High immigration has consequences. It is a high tax policy. Nearly 200,000 births in 2016 (28% of the total) were to mothers themselves born overseas.

Those children will have to be educated. As well as more schools, we will need more doctors, more hospitals, more housing. But no one asked us whether we wanted this.

In fact we were promised the opposite. Since 2010 we have been promised that net immigration would be reduced to the tens of thousands. This policy was left in the hands of the most under-powered senior minister of modern times. Nothing happened. It was easiest for government not to address the consequences of this pathetic failure (who is now Prime Minister.)

As well as more schools, more hospitals, more doctors, more housing, we need more cities. Legal net immigration is the equivalent of a new city the size of Newcastle or Hull every year. It doesn't matter exactly which city. Do we want new city after new city? Do we want every settlement to have to expand? Maybe we like our towns and villages the size they are. But we weren't asked

Don't tickle the sleeping dogs. A survey by Chatham House this year showed that a majority in Austria, France, Germany, Greece and Italy would support a blanket ban on all immigration from Muslim countries. A few weeks ago, Slovakia’s prime minister declared that Islam has “no place” in his country. The Czech Republic has told the EU it will not take any Muslim asylum seekers. And EU countries are building walls. For some Europeans, even a wall is not enough: Austria has been talking about deploying soldiers and armoured vehicles against migrants who might come over from Italy, where the invasion is running at 20,000 a week.

What is the point of us taking back control of EU migration when even legal immigration from outside the EU keeps running far ahead of target? The Pathetic Failure says it's all very difficult, there's no magic bullet etc. It was your policy. And you've decided to keep it, so that your successor can fail too.

The political class think it's fine to keep on not giving us what we voted for.

June 25, 2017

How useless can our MPs be?

Our jaws dropped when we learned that some Labour MPs had nominated Jeremy Corbyn for the Labour leadership, just so that his voice would be heard in the debate (which they were sure he would lose). What have they done to the country, these supposedly professional politicians?

In the event they may have saved us from a Labour government. For who else could have lost against Mrs May?

Tory MPs are even more culpable. All of us in the country knew Mrs May had been a hopeless Home Secretary. Mostly she did nothing except cut police numbers and the border force. When forced to actually do something, like seeing up an enquiry into historical child abuse, she got it astonishingly wrong. Repeatedly.

She ducked governing because she was timid, because she lacked imagination,  and because she lacked intelligence. She ducked communicating with people because she was shy and cold. She sat silently in cabinet meetings because she was out of her depth and had nothing to contribute.

Yet Tory MPs - after seeing this charmless, over-promoted woman up close for years - chose her as their next leader. And she has proved every bit as hopeless as her record as Home Secretary suggested.

May does not deserve our pity for her present situation. She put herself forward as leader when she surely must have known she did not have the brains to be PM, nor the judgement, nor the charisma. This timid, vain woman continues to cost the country dearly with her puffed up, delusional ambitions.

The population of England shot up during her time as Home Secretary. Nor was there any serious attempt to address the separation of Islamic culture from the UK mainstream. May timidly feared that anything she did might make matters worse. She continued to try to communicate through traditional "community leaders".  Liberated Muslim women complain that they cannot get a hearing from government. May stuck her head in the sand and refused any meaningful initiatives. As for boldness and fresh thinking. Pah.

After the latest terrorist attacks she announced that "enough is enough". It was a stupid formulation (we can tolerate a few terror attacks but not so many?), but as ever with May there was no follow-up to the slogan, there seemed to be no thoughts in her head at all.

Outside SW1 we all had our individual moment when we realised how poor May was. For me it was her wooden answers in her interview with Andrew Neil. But there were plenty of other occasions.  By the time she visited Plymouth, she had become a figure of fun.

And how can an experienced senior politician not realise that a manifesto isn't a tick list for governing, it's a sales document? It's not: Here's a list of what we'll do. It's: Here's why you should vote for us. But what reason did she give us? None.

Thanks to this woman the government has no Commons majority, the establishment is stirring to sabotage Brexit, and even Corbyn looks more prime ministerial than May to many people.

For her achievements over many years, Theresa May deserves our deep contempt.

June 09, 2017

Yes, she was the big loser in this election

And so it turned out that Theresa May, the Wizard of Oz of politics, showed herself the worst pafrty leader at campaigning in modern times.

As for governing, she is serious abut it but she is no good at it.

And building alliances? Hopeless.


The Tories need to give Boris a coronation, as he is the only Tory with an actual record of - you know - actually winning elections. David Davis should be the kingmaker and shove all the cabinet into line.

Davis should be Deputy Prime Minister in charge of Brexit, with Gove as DPM in charge of domestic policy making up Boris's troika.

P.S. Apparently, some Tories are ludicrously saying May should stay but she must change her whole style of government.

This misses the point. It is not a style of governing that Mrs May can change for another, like a coat: she lacks the ability to govern in any other way.

So she must go.

June 07, 2017

The big loser in this election

Whatever the result of tomorrow's election, the big loser is Theresa May. She sneaked into the Tory leadership after Boris and Gove self-combusted, and Andrea Leadsom kept collapsing in floods of tears.

May was unexamined. We knew she had been ineffective for six years at the Home Office. What we didn't know is how devoid she is of ideas. How she cannot think on her feet. How she oozes awkwardness rather than charisma. Shyness can have its charm. But her non-answers to questions are an insult to voters and an insult to democracy.

Adam Boulton reports activists describing her as brittle, hollow, rumbled, vindictive, shallow, and evasive. That all seems justified.

In principle she has a serious attitude to governing - a welcome change from several predecessors. But in practice, her policy-making is as cack-handed as her personal manner.

It's several months since she announced what sounded like a back to the past policy on grammar schools. But this policy has still not been fleshed out. A free vote on fox hunting was a pointless announcement in an election campaign, and again suggested an emotional attachment to old Tory policies. And re-instating the Board of Trade? Why would anyone be interested in that?

On social care she seems to have failed to consult, relying on her notoriously tight and closed inner circle.

She emerges as an economic fiddler, with no overarching philosophy of the economy or society, but rather a penchant for meddlesome interference. She tries to blame on others the ineffectiveness of policy during her arid years at the Home Office, and promotes to the Cabinet second-raters who were her junior ministers. No encourager of talent she, she is the grey controller.

The only advantage of May is that she will probably keep Corbyn's Labour out. Against an able, moderate Labour leader (if any became available) she would probably have floundered hopelessly. Against anyone with the charisma of Blair she would have been toast.

In short, I will be voting against Labour, but in no sense will this be a vote for May. Like the Wizard of Oz, she has been found out, exposed as being without power or magic or any real substance. May failed for six years at the Home Office, and her days as Prime Minister should be numbered. For the good of the country, let us hope so.

May is the big loser in this election. If she stays around, so are we.

June 01, 2017

Theresa May - the Wizard of Oz of politics

Let me be very clear about this. Theresa May is hugely over-promoted.

She is the accidental prime minister. After being a very poor Home Secretary she became leader by accident, so her inadequacies weren't exposed at that stage. She is a control freak who can't delegate, she can't think on her feet, she can't improvise, she has no charisma, and she lacks empathy & imagination.

I am very clear about this. May is a clunker. She got away with being a useless Home Secretary who got nowhere near her net migration targets, and didn't help herself by cutting the border force.

Commentators who want to urge a course of action on her naturally shy away from discussing her shortcomings.

But I want to be clear on this. She is wholly unfit for high office.

Take her wooden, wholly unspecific answers to a few simple questions on a visit to Plymouth yesterday. Quite apart from being wholly inadequate from any politician of any seniority, they are an insult to the democratic process, as they tell the voters of Plymouth nothing about her opinions on some major local issues.

Now, it's not as if arriving in Plymouth took her by surprise. And it wasn't her first visit. It's not as if she couldn't have been briefed on local concerns. But it looks as if Theresa May couldn't be arsed. She insulted the voters of Plymouth. And she thought that was absolutely fine.

Now we know why she was so quiet in the EU referendum. It wasn't some calculating master plan. It was because she had nothing to say. Then she became leader by accident. Gove and Boris self-combusted, Leadsom emerged as a crybaby, and May was never tested.

While May was surrounded by her officials and her aggressive special advisers, commentators assumed there must be some substance to her.

But let us be absolutely clear. She couldn't avoid being exposed in this campaign. And she has been exposed as inadequate.

Adequate maybe - maybe - as a junior minister. But not fit for high office.

People were in awe of the Wizard of Oz. He was a fraud. A clever fraud, but a fraud.

I want to be very clear about this. Theresa May is a fraud. In the campaign that she called, the Tories started with a landslide lead. Now the country wonders if they are going to be buried under an avalanche. Whether they win or not, May's career should be over.

The Wizard of Oz should fly off to Maidenhead and obscurity.

March 19, 2017

Government in a mess

Political commentators on the right have taken to criticising cabinet ministers. They call on Theresa May to replace them, implicitly exempting her from their criticism.

For Peter Oborne "Mrs May is showing firm, principled leadership as Britain heads towards Brexit" but "Home Secretary Amber Rudd hasn’t made an impact". Er ... this is exactly what Theresa May did as Home Secretary for years, not make an impact. It worked for her, and it's probably what she wants of Amber Rudd.

For, as Adam Boulton says, some Tories see her as resembling Gordon Brown: "paranoid, bullying, over-reliant on unaccountable advisers but ultimately indecisive and cautious".

Hammond is clearly damaged goods. May doesn't favour a smaller state; indeed she is a fan of extra wheezes, which cost money, yet can't nerve herself to slay big white elephants like Hinckley Point, HS2, or overseas aid. So Hammond will have to find ways to raise taxes which Her Majesty's opposition on the Evening Standard or the Tory backbenches will permit.

Tim Shipman reports that
Downing Street has told senior ministers that any reshuffle later this year is likely to target only middle-ranking and junior ministers, leaving Hammond safe for now.
A stunning misjudgement with Liz Truss in the cabinet. But if Hammond were to be replaced? Allister Heath puts forward Sajid Javid (who fumbled both Tata Steel and business rates) and Michael Fallon (who fiddled over IHAT and has been rightly described as chief press officer for his department). If that's the best they can do, the Tories really are in trouble. And so is the country.

At least Peter Oborne can point to talented backbenchers.

Michael Gove should be DPM with responsibility for domestic policy, giving Mrs May more time for Brexit and Scotland and the money. The problem? Their talents exceed those of gray May, and she knows it.

Boulton and Oborne suggest May should go to the country. If she does, her policy on a second Scottish referendum should be that Scots should first see the outcome of Brexit. Then, if they are unhappy, they could have a second and final referendum if there is majority support there for it. English politicians in their bubble should stop emoting about this "precious, precious union". The Scots should decide.

May has no need to position herself so that a decision by Scotland to leave would be seen as a defeat for her.

It is the policy of the SNP to make Scotland poorer. If that is what Scots want, that is their choice, and we can take back control the £9 billion a year we bung them, to use in the English NHS instead. £170m a week on the side of a battlebus would make a powerful photo opportunity.

If Arron Banks doesn't want to do it, crowd-funding would probably be easy.

March 15, 2017

"All Out War"

All Out War is a remarkable book. It's famously remarkable for its speed, appearing some twelve weeks after the EU referendum. It's remarkable for its style. Shipman is always smooth and lucid. I was involved in the campaign, but I actually found the book exciting. And it's also remarkable that the publishers didn't give this detailed account an index.

Shipman himself emerges (rightly or wrongly) as having a mild, almost kindly temperament, though that does mean he is not always steely-eyed.

The title is almost brilliant. It doesn't quite work: by Shipman's own account, Cameron pulled some punches because he didn't want to risk splitting the Conservative party. But most participants did go at it hammer and tongs.

Shipman would not claim that this is the full story of the referendum campaign. It is an absorbing, revealing, detailed account of what happened at the centre of politics. That focus isn't surprising. The people behind the scenes at the centre were the keenest to get their story out; overwhelmingly they were the people who talked to him. And continue to. Shipman amusedly says they contact him saying he's omitted some allegedly crucial meeting or other in which they played an allegedly crucial role.

Maybe there are slightly too many of those meetings in the book already. The narrative is generally tight and pacy, without being superficial, but sags slightly when some of the backroom meetings are detailed. The reader feels he could have done without some of them. Doubtless people at some of those meetings felt the same.

To historians, it doesn't matter how the people they criticise react. The historian moves on. But journalists want to keep their lines of communication open, and Shipman draws back from some deserved criticisms.

Thus Osborne is praised for fighting a referendum he didn't want as an act of friendship to Cameron. Shipman doesn't remind us just how dishonest Osborne's conduct was. He played dirty. In his case it really was All Out War, and honesty and morality were irrelevant. The saving grace was that Osborne was so cack-handed.

Similarly, Cummings is praised as the man who singlehandedly drove Vote Leave to success. Shipman accepts that Cummings was difficult to work with, but Cummings' contribution was actually more problematic. "Vote Leave, Take Control" was simple and brilliant, but (here I disagree with Shipman) Cummings' £350m was a huge blunder. The figure was quickly and easily shown to be untrue. It seemed that in every media interview every Leave politician was probed on the number, undermining the Leave campaign's credibility. This was particularly frustrating because a more realistic figure of (say) £120m would have had just the same shock value, without the disadvantage of being obviously false.

As it was, it was discouraging to be walking miles putting leaflets through doors which prominently featured the big and well publicised £350m lie. Cummings' appearance before the Treasury Select Committee was a cringingly awful disaster (Matthew Elliott's was little better). Vote Leave's campaigning was disorganised. They changed the structure of their website during the campaign, and presumably ran short of money, as this campaigner had to scramble round to other sources for publicity materials when Vote Leave couldn't supply them.

Shipman suggests more than once that the opinion polls may have been unreliable. He can be forgiven for not exploring this, as his book is primarily a narrative account, but for someone who was there the suggestion is fascinating. The published polls were moving in Leave's favour when Jo Cox was murdered, and it was to Cameron's advantage to suspend campaigning for as long as he could get away with, in the hope of braking that momentum.

At the start of negotiations with the EU it looked likely that we would Remain. Cameron must have expected that outcome, MPs showed that they overwhelmingly favoured it. Shipman is right that misjudgements and luck led to Remain's failure, and he catalogues them well. It was a series of narrow squeaks for Leave. The renegotiation was, very obviously, no good (probably Cameron airily told Merkel it would be fine). Gove and Johnson campaigned prominently for Brexit, giving Leave credibility and wide appeal. Vote Leave narrowly won the designation - a campaign headed by Farage would only have captured the diehards.

What did Vote Leave achieve? They facilitated victory by making Leave a respectable point of view and - importantly - non-party. The strategy was good, but much of the tactics was awful.

If Shipman had tried to explore this, his book might have taken twice as long to write and been hopelessly unwieldy. As it is, he has scoped the book well.

The MP Steve Baker praises this book in his Amazon review. Steve Baker does come out of the book very well! - but his praise is more than good manners.

All Out War will be definitive.

March 14, 2017

Abolish the green levies

Government-imposed green eco levies add some £130 a year to energy bills, The Mail suggests.

Saving the "just managing" £130 would help them. And it could pay for a chunk of the increase in Class 4 NICs.

In any case carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. The revered "scientific consensus" has been wrong. Global temperatures have risen far less than the "scientific consensus" predicted. And no one has proved that the small rise is man made.

Government should stop taking our money for no good reason. Give us back our £130.

Let Scotland have its referendum

On the day of Parliament's historic vote that Article 50 could be triggered, the BBC led their 10pm News on the whining Scotswoman making indefinite noises about another referendum on Scottish independence.

We all know it would be economically disastrous for Scotland. Maybe the aim is to extract more autonomy and much needed English money in order to keep Scotland in the union. Or maybe the SNP fears losing its Holyrood majority at the next election, so it's now or never - even though most Scots tell pollsters they don't want another independence referendum any time soon.

Call the SNP's bluff. Give the pauper province its referendum. English politicians shouldn't put their necks on the line; they'll only be criticised during the referendum and afterwards, whatever the result.

And they certainly shouldn't throw more English money at Scotland.

For a change in this referendum, let's have a bus advertising a big number - the money England will save if Scotland leaves. It will get lots of media coverage and it won't cost Arron Banks much.

There is a net transfer of around £9 billion a year from the rest of the UK to Scotland. An independent Scotland would have to increase taxes or cut spending by more than £1,000 per person.

English politicians should give the pauper province its referendum and stand aside.