President Erdogan of Turkey presents a terrible dilemma for the West

29 Dec 2015 at 10:30

If August is the silly season for journalists desperate to fill pages with surfing squirrels and singing dogs, the Christmas to New Year dead space, where hung over journalists attempt to titivate a comatose nation with quizzes and stories that would normally never see the light of day, must be the the dopey season. A few days ago the normally well informed and sharp as a tack Fraser Nelson came up with a story so bonkers that I had to check that it wasn’t April the first, namely that Cameron was considering making Boris Johnson Foreign Secretary. The Downing Street flunky who ever came up with this one must have won a bet about who could get the most un-airworthy of kites off the ground. And then in the Times this morning there are some quotes from a Tory donor called Alexander Temerko (I know, never heard of him either) who will give squillions to ensure that Boris becomes the next Tory leader as Osborne’s living wage policy will be a green light for immigrants. Mr. Temerko was born in Ukraine. The age of irony is not dead.

But apart from the terrible plight of those poor devils flooded out of their homes, the most worrying news story, which sends a shiver down the spine of an old Turkophile like me, is a piece written by Can Dundar in the Guardian. I can see your interest is waning. But be patient. He is the editor in chief of Cumhuriyet Daily, a well respected Turkish newspaper. He wrote it in solitary confinement where he awaits a trial for espionage. You may want to know what his ‘crime’ is. Sometime in 2014 a truck sent by the Turkish government carrying humanitarian aid was intercepted on its way to Syria. Turkish authorities searched the vehicle to find ammunition hidden beneath the chests of medicine. Then the security service intervened and allowed the truck safe passage. The officials, including the prosecutor, who stopped the truck were detained. Yet there was film of what had happened and Dundar and his Ankara bureau chief published the story. President Erdogan was furious. “The person who wrote this story will pay a heavy price for it. I won’t let it go unpunished.”

I accept that Turkey has some very bad neighbours. I appreciate that the border with Syria is a nightmare. I understand the long running war with the terrorist PKK. But Turkey is a democracy. It has come a long way from the terrible days of the seventies and military dictatorships. But Turkey under Erdogan masquerades under a rule of law that doesn’t exist. It’s journalists are put before kangaroo courts to be tried on trumped up charges before a suborned judiciary. Just for publishing the truth. Dundar is no Assange nor a Snowden. He is respected and responsible.

Erdogan is a very dangerous man. He has broken the fundamental principle of Attaturk that religion should be in the heart of the individual and not at the heart of the state. He is turning the presidency from that of something purely ceremonial to one of executive power. He crushes dissent. His power base is not in the relaxed and liberal towns but in the hardline Muslim villages. And the laid back, decent, Turks are worried.

But it goes further than this. Erdogan had a peace deal with the PKK which he has broken. He is using the war against ISIS as an excuse to destroy the Kurds who are fighting them. Rumours abound ( I have not seen any hard evidence) that he is buying oil from ISIS. There is great anger in the army that young Turkish conscripts are being slaughtered because of this misguided policy. Turkey is in turmoil because Erdogan, who has built himself an enormous palace, has convinced himself that he is the new father of the nation.

All this is a terrible dilemma for the West. Turkey is a valued ally and a key member of NATO. They are the gatekeepers of the flow of Syrian refugees. We want them as part of the EU. In these dark days our priority must be to defeat the death cult of ISIS. Sometimes in war principles have to be compromised. But we ignore the plight of good and decent journalists like Can Dundar at our peril. The values that our civilisation are built upon and which ISIS want to destroy are personal freedom protected by the rule of law. President Erdogan is making a half decent fist of doing their job for them



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Trump, Hopkins Stop the War & Momentum have one thing in common; intolerance

12 Dec 2015 at 10:01

I wonder what Donald Trump sees when he gazes lovingly into the mirror. I suspect it is a young, slim, virile leader of men who has the courage to say what most people really think. Oh, and with a dashing mane of hair. The poor fellow. If only he knew what we see. An overweight ego maniac with a preposterous hairdo and a mouth that pouts like a cats anus.

But according to well respected political philosopher, Katie Hopkins, he has shown great leadership despite talking ‘hot air’ and that his policies are ‘unworkable’. I sometimes wonder, although not too often, what the Hopkins mindset is before writing a piece. I suspect that it is along the lines of, ’ I am the most hated woman in Britain. This is how I earn my living. I offend the metrosexual Guardianistas and anyone who has anything to do with the biased British Bolshevik Broadcasting Corporation. I articulate what the unemployed, underachieving benefitista really thinks. Immigrants are taking their jobs, Muslims are taking over the country and let’s get out of bloody Europe. I will do anything and say anything to go that extra mile to piss off the smug, self satisfied entitled Fleet Street Bubble’.

And of course, that strange, shouty, scary lower pond life of bitter folk with dragging knuckles who infest the sewers of the Guido comments section thinks that she is wonderful. So apparently does Donald Chump. Heaven knows what they think of him in certain parts of Belfast as a former Gerry Adams fund raiser. But that is the problem with American politics. Most of them don’t have a passport. Any many think that abroad is the next county.

It is wrong to say that there is a massive Muslim problem here, or even a minor one. What puzzles us is why are so many young men and women become radicalised. There is a clue in today’s TIMES. There is a very troubling piece about how the head of Ofsted has found a number of Muslim schools in the Birmingham area who are teaching homophobia, anti semitism and a restricted Islamic curriculum. It took him a while to unravel the bureaucracy of the DFE and close them down. But parents wanted their kids to attend these schools. One has to ask why. And it was only a few months ago that we had the Trojan horse report about intolerance and segregation in schools. It shouldn’t be Ofsted closing these schools down, it should be Muslim communities forbidding them to be opened in the first place.

There are three priorities for the government on this; integration, integration, integration. The great British tradition of tolerance has been taken for a ride.

And then we spin the coin. Look at the far left, Momentum, Stop the War and all those creepy figures from Labour’s Militant past whom we thought had died. Little did we know that they have been incubating in the bodies of their hosts, Corbyn, McDonnell and Diane Abbott. We see decent people like Stella Creasy and Hilary Benn abused in the streets. Anyone who doesn’t follow the new agenda (actually, it’s rather old) are denounced as traitors, Tories or the worst insult of all, Blairites. And Corbyn’s Beria is the truly ghastly Abbott. At least some of the new intake such as Jess Phillips are standing up to this caricature of Stalin’s granny.

But will anyone of any stature have the courage to say publicly what most Labour members really think, namely that the party has been high jacked at every level and they must rebuilt from scratch. This happened in 1981 with the formation of the SDP. It is their only hope. And after the Shadow Cabinet purge which will take place in the New Year, Labour moderates will be in drinking up time in the last chance saloon.

Does anyone have the courage?



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Osborne vagazzled McDonnell's cunning stunt of praying in aid a massmurdering psychpath who forced Britain's largest investor to live in a cave

26 Nov 2015 at 07:33

George Osborne’s reputation is a bit like Katie Price’s derrière; it’s looking peachy but over the years it has taken one hell of a pounding. Yesterday George vagazalled John McDonnell’s cunning stunt of praying in aid a Chinese psychopath mass murderer who forced one of Britain’s largest investors to live in a cave. You couldn’t make it up. But whoever thought of the wheeze to give the tax on women’s sanitary products to women’s charities deserves a plinth in the pantheon of political cynicism. Tampax tibi.

Imagine old McDonnell with his funny farm of advisors pouring over the Winter Statement an hour before it was delivered. ’He’s not tinkering with the tax credit fiasco his scrapping it, the bastard. Cross out the “too little too late” bit. Fuck, he’s giving more money to the health service. Strike out the “Osborne fiddles while the NHS burns line”. Shit, more money for the police. Abandon that zinger “while Paris mourns and Brussels is in lock down this chancellor leaves British working people unprotected”.’ It must have been a terrible experience for them.

The really clever thing about the Winter Statement is how on earth the Treasury kept that £27bn windfall (they would call I the fruits of sound economic management) a secret? Quite a feat. The trick of being a good chancellor is being on the right side of the economic cycle and giving the illusion that you are prudent when actually you are contemplating putting the contingency reserve on a filly at York. But really the trick is consistency and sticking to your guns when even your own party and the press are screaming for you to change course on your central economic theme. Bravery and unpopularity have finally paid off. Boris, who was catching up on the leadership polls, must be thoroughly fed up. He has only Europe as his
Sat hurrah.

There is chatter about Corbyn not lasting another year. For all the obvious reasons I don’t buy that. He may be regarded as unelectable by the punters but grass roots Labour think that he is the best thing since Ed Miliband. So there won’t be any coups. But Jeremy is only human. At the best of times being Labour leader is a living hell. He might just get a bit of a boost if they retain Meacher’s seat, but there will be pandemonium if the Kippers win. The real test will be the May elections. If there is wipe out it will be Tom Watson’s painful duty to encourage him to take a short break in Switzerland where he might care to drop in to the Dignitas clinic. Or Jeremy might just get fed up with the sheer monotonous horror of it all. I doubt it. He takes his strength from being feted by true believers and viewing mainstream media with contempt. Old Labour hands tell me rather in hope that his health might be the determining factor. Well, we’ll see.

Corbyn is blessed with a deputy leader who is remarkably loyal, dignified and discreet. That must be quite terrifying. Corbyn would be wise to keep a careful eye on his elderflower cordial, particularly when Tom is nearby. If Watson, by whatever means, becomes Labour leader the Tories had better watch out.


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It's time the public realised what a ruthless money grabbing bunch of bastardsthe BMA are

20 Nov 2015 at 11:30

The Paris massacre coupled with the numbing inadequacy of Jeremy Corbyn has overshadowed another disaster engulfing another Jeremy. The junior doctors threat of striking over pay. If this was as a result of one of those omnishambled Treasury wheezes to cut public expenditure, my sympathy would be with them. But it isn’t. If the Health Secretary was a rabid sociopath with dangerous Grayling tendencies chanting some failed Thatcherite dogma, my heart would go out to them. But the Health Secretary is Jeremy Hunt. He is not a headline chaser and most of the public have never heard of him as he is mild of manner and as showy as a classics don. Yet he is probably the safest pair of hands in government. He diffused the ticking time bomb of the Lansley fiasco. He talks about patients rather than outcomes. He is reasonable, moderate and fair.

Those of us who have had dealings with the BMA appreciate that they are a ruthless bunch of money grabbing bastards who will say anything and do anything to get their way. They make Len McClusky look like a well coiffed poodle.

Hunt has been a model of reasonableness in talks. His door is still open. Yet Junior doctors leaders will have none of it. They accuse colleagues who want to negotiate and don’t want to strike scabs. And even the Royal colleges are trying to calm them down.

The first lie that is being peddled is that the new contract will lose them money. In fact nobody will receive a pay cut. There will be an increase of basic pay by 11% and they will be paid more for working unsocial hours.

The second lie is that the new contract will threaten the safety of patients, ‘tired doctors make mistakes’. That is why the new contract requires junior doctors to work no more than 48 hours a week with a maximum of 72. Under the present contract the maximum is 91 hours.

I went to great lengths to get to the bottom of this so heaven knows what the average punter thinks. The government really has to up the PR on this.

What Hunt is trying to achieve is the manifesto commitment of a 7 day NHS. Yes, I know that a lot of doctors do this already, but not everyone. And to make it work structures have to remodelled. Most people are rather shocked to find out that if they are admitted to hospital at the weekend they are more likely to be carried out in a box than if they went in on a weekday.

I am sure that most doctors care desperately about their patients and probably have not had time to independently research what is really on offer to them. I hope that they have the common sense and decency to blow a very loud raspberry to their union leaders. If not they will be causing needless suffering to those they have dedicated their lives to caring for.

This is the wrong battle. It’s time to negotiate not strike



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It's time the REMAINERS came out fighting. Send for Major

12 Nov 2015 at 08:38

The out campaign have got themselves in a bit of a mess again. Still warring over who is to be their public face with Fromage hissing and spitting like a cornered cat and Aaron Banks as swaggeringly arrogant as he is deeply unpleasant, a complex intellectual conundrum is confounding the Parliamentary Boners. No, not a peep at Boris’s browsing habits, but those two Titans of political philosophy, Peter Bone and Phillip Hollobone, who grace the pages of our great organ of truth the Daily Mail today. This is all about the rather good news that there are more people in employment in the UK since records began. But wait a moment, they are not all ruddy faced, horny handed sons of British soil. No, dammit, quite a few of them are garlic munching, sausage nibbling foreigners from the EU. God, and some of them are Rumanian and we know what they are like. So thus spoke the oracle Bone this morning,“this breaks the myth that EU migrants are coming for benefits……if we had controls of our borders we could stop them taking jobs that British people could fill.” The other Boner said something similar.

So have you spotted the problem? The myth that EU migrants come over here to take our benefits. Such myth that the likes of the Boners and other intellectual giants such as O’Patz, have been peddling for years. And there is not a shred of evidence that these migrants are taking jobs that we Brits are desperate to take. So you might think that this is all a little desperate. But even a committed Remainer like me knows that the public find it incomprehensible that British taxpayers are forking out child benefit to kids who are not even living in the UK. How the Polish Prime Minister can say that it is discriminatory to put a stop to this scandal is beyond even my fetid imagination.

But although the OUTers are a swivelled eyed bunch of derangees who bore for Britain I have not been overly impressed with the leadership of the REMAINERs. Could we not have done rather better than Stewart Rose? Not quite as inarticulate as Lester Piggott, but he is making a promising go at it. And he does look like the the sort of man who would cross the road to adore his reflection in a shop window.

I appreciate that there is a school of thought that until we know what deal Cameron has done with Brussels it is difficult to put a positive case for the EU. But this is barmy and bordering on the dangerous. Apart from Ken Clarke, who of any substance regularly paints the EU in a positive light? The OUTERs have won the argument on censorship. They say the BBC is biased, the CBI don’t speak for business, that anyone who has had any connection with Brussels is a stooge. In short, anyone who puts forward a sensible case for us remaining in the EU is nothing more than a paid mouthpiece of the Commission. It really is time that the REMAINERs come out fighting. And soon. I do hope that John Major takes the lead. He is not a toxic brand like Mandelson and Blair and has that rare quality in a politician in that he is trusted by the people. He knows more than anyone how to deal with the Byzantine practices of Brussels.

So REMAINERs stop being such wimps. If you are not careful our silver fox will be shot we will be sleep walking out of Europe.



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Goodbye Charlie. The nation loved you, your party shafted you and your voters destroyed you

3 Nov 2015 at 18:22

I have just been to pay my respects to my dear old friend Charlie Kennedy at St Georges Cathedral in Southwark. Built to the glory of God and an homage to Rastafarian mock gothic. The good, the great and the not so great joined hands to see the great man off.

There was a delightful irony that Cameron, Ken Clarke, Gove and many of the cabinet processed in to the swelling of the seventy stop organ, (no, not Mellor, his organ never stopped) booming out Ode to Joy. Or to you an me the European national anthem. The Brexiteers will convulse with fury at this perceived act of treachery. And the piercing fakirs eyes of Dan Hannan will be swivelling in indignation. As for Bill Cash? Matron is with him now.

There were some good jokes. Jim Wallace reminded us of Margaret Thatcher’s query about whom was the young member with pale suit and Nairobi sunset hair newly elected in 1983. ‘Argh’, with a snarl that curdled the milk of human kindness, ‘the thought that Hamish Gray could have been defeated by a man wearing white socks!’ And he wasn’t even from Essex.

Then there was the tale of adoring women screeching, ’ we love you Charlie’. His response was, ‘then keep it quiet, the party is in enough trouble.’ Jim Naughtie came up with a lovely line from Norman St John Stevas who advised a young Kennedy that being in politics was ‘like being a pianist in a whorehouse’. To be fair, I doubt whether Norman had ever been in a whorehouse. But he might have had the odd nine inch pianist.

There was also a fascinating compilation of Kennedy speeches and interviews. In one he was rather disobliging to David Owen. ‘Bullying, vindictive and egotistical’ come to mind. Poor David processed out to the tune of fly me to the moon on the arm of Shirley Williams. Owen had the face of a robber’s dog looking for raw meat.

It was a lovely service. Like all politicians he was vilified in life and beloved after death. But this was a show of genuine affection for a brilliant, kind decent and unaffected man who gained more seats than the Lib Dems have ever had. As Naughtie remarked, ’he was not a policy wonk but he always answered the questions even if it was not entirely accurate. But,my God, he was a great human being.

Kennedy summarised a truth that the public love and the greasers and chancers of Westminster despise. ‘Politics is much too serious to be taken seriously’.

Goodbye old friend. I will miss the the joy of you, the humanity of you and the many evenings on the piss with you. Your beautiful wife Sarah and lovely son Donald have much to be proud of.

And to his credit Tom Watson was there. Corbyn was consulting with Stop the War.



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This is not a constitutional crisis just the lords blowing a pungent fart in the direction of the Commons

28 Oct 2015 at 10:16

I have a horrible sinking feeling that the Tories are about to fuck up again. No, not about tax credits. There was always going to be a tweaking to assist the poorest. What amazed me was that like the omnishambles budget of 2012 nobody seemed to see this one coming. Mixed signals were coming out of Number 10 and 11 when the IFS, Willetts and Frank Field sounded the air raid sirens. Ministers were touring the tea rooms and bars like corporal Jones, warning jittery backbenchers deluged by letters from the hardworking poor, not to panic. But the Treasury gave the impression that they wanted to play hardball. It was. They slavishly followed the wrongheaded Ken Clarke mantra of “get all the bad news out of the way quickly and people will forget”. Well, they will if the public know in their guts that we are taking unpopular but necessary measures which in the end will help them. An end to the low pay, high benefit culture for one. But the punters are sticklers for fairness and they thought that although the policy of eventually weaning working families off of tax credits, provided they were compensated with lower taxes, a living wage, and thirty hours of free child care was fine, hitting the poorest 3 million in one whack was morally indefensible. Economically sound, but a PR political disaster. Good God, it even made that dreadful old man McDonnell seem reasonable. Insane. So there will be a bit of humble pie eaten by Osborne, who needs to effect a bit of humility from time to time even if he doesn’t mean it, in the Autumn Statement. Water under the bridge.

This evening Osborne addresses the 22. There will be much praise, much banging on desks and a snarling anger. The anger will be directed against the unelected Lords. “Their wings must be clipped……constitutional crisis… dare they breach convention……we are elected……” There will be the stench of bitterness and retribution polluting committee room 14. It is wrong headed, naive and will play badly with the electorate.

Of course, the Lords is stuffed with placemen (and women) who have greased their way into Parliament by cash bribes and and those who have toadied their way to erminedom by vigorous tongue on leather action. Then there are the political retreads who often bring the worst elements of partisanship to the upper house. But there are good and decent people there too.

On the fatal motion, which sounds a little like death on the lavatory, they over stepped the mark and broke an established convention. Very annoying. But, despite some of the overblown Dickensian arguments, their case was right. This is not a constitutional crisis, just a very pungent fart in the direction of the Commons. Quite sensibly, Cameron has appointed the emollient and pragmatic Tommy Strathclyde to put forward proposals for reform. But best let it hang above them like the sword of Damacles. Anything else will be distraction. For now.


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Oh Heidi Allen your heart is in the right place, but don't become the Great Tory Baked Off

20 Oct 2015 at 18:20

Oh Heidi Allen. Your heart is in exactly the right place but please put your brain into gear! Let me give you some advice as someone who was a serial rebel against some of Margaret Thatcher’s rather more dangerous policies. You are new, you are bright, you are enthusiastic and you have a seat so safe that the Tory votes are weighed. You are the Aga Khan of South Cambridgeshire. But don’t make the mistakes that I did in my early years. If you are really, really incensed by a government policy speak to the Whips and demand to speak to Osborne. If necessary demand to speak to Cameron. They may hear you even if you think that they are not listening. What is happening at the moment is that the ‘line’ is being held. There will be no retreat from a policy where the taxpayer pays the hardworking poor in order for them to be paid slave wages by employers. It helps nobody. And it is right both morally and fiscally. However, when the IFS, David Willetts and the House of Commons Library warn that the figures don’t quite add up the alarm bells, whistles and big whooping sirens will be sounding in Number 10 and 11. There will be a plan to make the transition fairer and stomachable. The trouble is that nobody quite yet knows what it is. Yet it will happen. But not today, probably in a few weeks time when Osborne has a serious statement to make. So work behind the scenes, make your views known privately, but do not wear your heart on your sleeve. It is so easy. I am not saying you should not speak out, of course you should, but make your language less colourful until you are fighting the final battle when fools use the Thatcher ploy of ‘never explain and never apologise’. If that happens let loose the dogs of war.

But we haven’t come to that. Nowhere near it.

So what will happen next? You are now a national treasure to the press. Why? Because they thrive on division. They will fete you with lunch, dinner, drinks. You will be asked for interviews on programmes that will make your ego soar. You will be invited to write columns. Why? Because you will be the great Tory Baked Off. And all the while every word you utter will be used to to undermine a government who really care about the working poor, but just haven’t got it right yet. You really don’t want to be seen shoring up the teetering Corbyn message. My advice? Resist. A period of silence and organisation. If you don’t you will become the Monday morning political editor’s round up as a rent a quote for disaffection. I have been there and what a fool I was.

However there was a rebellion which I have no regrets about. In the 1980s I was put on the standing committee for the Health and Medicines Bill. My job was to be lobby fodder. I read the bill. It was an abomination. Thatcher wanted to save £30 million by abolishing the free sight and dental checks. Thousands of pensioners would go blind and and a key diagnostic tool would be lost. It was insane. But I played the game. I went to the whips, went to the Secretary of State and even the Prime Minister. Nobody listened. So I unleashed the dogs of war, appearing one night simultaneously on every news broadcast. I lost, but it was a close run thing. I even had minor fistycuffs with a whip. They panicked, but I lost by four votes.

And Heidi, one more word of advice, make sure you get the support of your constituency executive all the way. Then you untouchable. Although fairly fucked.

So the next problem you will have will be the Number 10 and 11 rubbish machine. It has been ruthless for every party. It is formidable. Expect a SUN headline Heidi Who? But nobody is beyond redemption.



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Another nail in Grayling's coffin. The solicitors bidding process was a shambles and will be judicially reviewed

19 Oct 2015 at 15:21

Oh dear, I should be jumping for joy that another flagship policy of the Ghastly Grayling has bitten the dust. But his total incompetence in handling the bidding process for the new two tier system of awarding contracts to solicitors is going to lead to a lot of heartache for the unsuccessful firms who will have an agonising wait for judicial review before they decide how many highly qualified professionals will have to be sacked. The whole process has been a total fiasco and many firms were stunned at the eccentricity of the awards which were announced last Friday. There were some very odd decisions. You may recall that before the May election officials warned Grayling that it would be wise to await the outcome before pressing ahead. This was advice that he totally ignored.

Now a very senior whistleblower has blown his whistle. Freddie Hurlston was the bid assessor from July to September. He has complained to the head of the Legal Aid Agency that best practice is to have suitably qualified staff equipped with a timetable. He is the view these were not met. Rather than legal aid professionals, staff at the Brook Street Bureau were employed and told that unless they processed 35 questions a day they would not be paid. All in all 50,000 questions had to be assessed. Hurlston claims that that this could not have been done properly and fairly.

Needless to say that the Law Society is incandescent with rage and will be launching a series of challenges in the High Court. I am told that the Cabinet Office has become involved and are of the view that the process was a complete shambles. Worse, bidders were expressly forbidden to use consultants so that there was a level playing field. This has been flouted with some larger firms spending thousands of pounds on them.

In many ways this is a gift to Michael Gove. He can now abandon the whole ghastly policy without criticising his predecessor publicly. This could be good news to the thousands of family solicitors who would have been thrown onto the scrapheap. And very good news for the weak and vulnerable who would be without adequate representation.

Another nail in Grayling’s coffin



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The sky is black with Grayling turkeys coming home to roost. Mercifully Gove is reloading his shotgun

14 Oct 2015 at 09:05

Once again I am pleased to doff my hat to Michael Gove. While the sky is black with Grayling turkeys coming home to roost, Gove stands in the barren wasteland of the MOJ with his shotgun. The poor fellow hardly has time to reload. Book ban on prisoners? Bang, squawk, thud. Vile abuse of our justice system? Bang, squawk, thud. Selling expertise on Justice to the Saudis? Two barrels for that act of almost criminal stupidity. Turning our prisons to squalid, unsafe dungeons of depravity and despair spawning record levels of suicide? Bang, squawk, thud. And this is just the first wave of turkeys. So little time, so much to do.

I expect the next policy to be thrown overboard will be the quite insane, undebated and unworkable piece of Grayling genius of charging criminals for the use of the courts. Fifty magistrates have resigned already, and most are modifying it to make it almost meaningless. But what has shocked me in a very pleasing way is that many Crown Court judges simply ignore it despite the fact that they have no discretion in the matter. It’s a pretty sorry state of affairs when judges come to the conclusion that a law is so unfair and plain wrong that they refuse to implement it. In my thirty eight years at the bar this is a unique experience.

But can you imagine the Gove response when a report about Justice Solutions International selling our expertise in justice to the Saudis where the veneer of civilisation is as flimsy as a fifty pound note crossed his desk? He would have gone totally Goveshit. Whatever next? Defra exports good old English oak for crucifixions? BIS gives grants to the cutlery industry to become competitive in selling their finest for beheadings and amputations? Pity the poor old Mandarins. They have a minister who thinks, innovates and decides. And so unlike most ministers who load, fire and aim in that order. It must be terrifying for the poor dears.

I would have loved to have been in the room when chuckles Hammond rather loftily suggested Gove was being naive. So wonderfully Foreign Office. Yes, we will upset the Saudis and they will have a bit of a sulk for a while. But can you imagine Cameron trying to justify the policy when pictures of a beheaded and crucified seventeen year old appear on the net? Or when that silly old boy gets three hundred lashes? I say silly because you really are inviting serious trouble if you make any sort of alcohol in Saudi. It is hardly a state secret. All Prime Ministers have to spend a rather long time shaking hands with some despicable people but every now and then it is important to be seen to be holding their noses at the same time.

The Saudis are an odd bunch, living in great comfort in the Middle Ages and utterly terrified of revolution or democracy. But we need them and they need us. Ghastly as it is, their awful regime is the only stable Arab nation. What always amazes me is how out of touch they are with how our government works. I was having lunch a few weeks ago with an old friend who produced Death of a Princess, which caused uproar and calls for the government to ban it. Martin told me that what had so incensed them was not that he had faked up the execution ( I’m sure they might have arranged for a woman of lesser birth to be topped), rather that the documentary actually depicted Saudi Princesses drinking and shagging in night clubs. It’s hard to believe that it caused a major diplomatic incident.

But back to Gove. His conference speech was an excellent demonstration of how far the Conservative Party has embraced humanity, compassion and the real world. For a senior cabinet minister to reject the ‘prison works’ nonsense and speak of the ‘undeserving’ rich sitting on each other’s renumeration committees in the same speech is a cause for celebration. This will no doubt cause Paul Dacre to bite the carpet and utter despair to what is now the shambles named the Labour Party.


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