For those Tories who want to get rid of Bercow keep a low profile. Labour will finish the job.

22 Aug 2014 at 10:58

John Bercow has nearly reached the point of no return over the appointment of Carol Mills to succeed Sir Robert Rogers as Chief Clerk of the Commons. The Speaker is going to have to decide whether he wishes to remain in his job or be given the pearl handled revolver and bottle of Whisky. The worst scenario for him would be to insist on her appointment without Parliamentary scrutiny and stand for re election after the election and lose.

As leader of the House William Hague is right not to intervene. This is a Commons matter not one for the executive. There is no love from the Conservative side for Bercow or rather there is a simmering loathing for him. They see him as partisan, patronising and condescending. Whether this is true is not really the point. The Tories never wanted him in the first place and can’t wait to see the back of him. Any manoeuvres from them look party political, which they would be.

But the dynamics have changed. The very people who put him there, heavyweights and former Leaders of the House, Jack Straw and Margaret Beckett are calling for Mills to be subject to a Parliamentary appointment by a select committee. Bercow would be committing political suicide if he doesn’t accept this face saver. After all, he made a speech a couple of years ago urging such a process.

Jack Straw should never be underestimated. He is one of the few surviving big beasts that labour has left. Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary, Minister of Justice and finally Leader of the House. When Jack speaks all parties listen with respect. And he doesn’t shoot from the hip. When he accused Bercow of a politically correct stunt there should be a sharp intake of breath at Speaker’s House. And when Betty Boothroyd, probably the finest Speaker in living memory, weighs in it really is time to take stock. She was right. The Speaker is the servant of Parliament and not the other way round. And when it comes to a pissing completion the Commons will win.

My advice to the Tories who want to get rid of Bercow is to keep a low profile. Leave it to the party who really elected him.

The other day I read a rather disturbing piece by my old friend Steve Richards Who seemed to suggest that in Rogers’ early days the Clerks of the House had a distain for MPs. Well, I was there. Nothing could be further from the truth. I found them and Rogers in particular, spectacularly, bright charming and helpful who truly regarded themselves as servants of the House. Nothing has changed.

I don’t think anyone has any objections if an outsider is brought in to run the services of the Commons. It worked particularly well when a top class administrator was appointed to run catering back in the late eighties. But the job of the House of Commons Clerks is to understand procedure and ensure the smooth running of business. To have the top job you are sitting directly in front of the Chair and would have to advise at a moments notice, then and there. His is the High Priest of Hansard.

And there probably lies the problem. Bercow fancies him self as an expert on Parliamentary procedure and knows the book inside out. And it is not a boast. He is and he does. Perhaps he resented having the opposite side of the argument politely put to him.

And here comes the irony. Michael Martin was kicked out of the Chair because he was regarded as incompetent and kowtowed too much to the wishes of members. Bercow might go because he is too competent and won’t kowtow to the wishes of members.

But it may be too late for a dignified exit as Labour have clearly turned against him. The best he can hope for is a promise of tenure until the election and a seat in the Lords. His chances of being re elected are slender.



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Recalling that preening posing Tower of Babel will only grandstand our weaknesses and uncertainties

21 Aug 2014 at 08:45

Will someone please explain to me why there is this bizarre clamour to recall Parliament? Yes, the Middle East is ablaze and all of us are still in shock that a home grown Brit thug has been party to a depraved act of barbarism. It is all the more chilling be because he is one of us, with the faux Jamaican accent of swagger and menace which is usually the hallmark of a street gangster. And for the truly wicked, a desert adventure with beheadings, a cause, the thrilling power of sheer terror and that all important sense of belonging and eventual martyrdom is irresistible.

But it is not just one isolated act of pure evil that should truly shock us. It appears that nearly two thousand of our young have joined the fight for a caliphate. And that must send a chill through every decent person’s soul. We have that lovely, comfortable middle class belief that unless one of our own is seriously mentally ill they could not be capable of such atrocities. How deluded can we be.

The coalition is accused of not having a coherent policy so let’s recall that Tower of Babel, to preen and pose and grandstand but come to no conclusion except for the weasel words of the likes of wee Douggie Alexander that our voices must be heard. Squeals of horror are just what these young thugs want to hear. Recall Parliament now and it will show to our enemies our weakness and uncertainty. To our enemies we are weak because we believe in democracy and we are uncertain because we bear the collective guilt of the Iraq war.

To have a policy we need consensus with our international allies. And once the true savagery of the beheadings of Jim Foley sinks into the consciousness of middle America and then lights the touch paper of naked anger of red neck America there is the inevitable predictability of over reaction.

So there is a brief window of opportunity for cool heads to prevail. Of course, humanitarian aid has to be the first priority. But at home we have to ask ourselves why hate filled preachers are still invited to our Mosques and Madrassas. I know how tough and isolated it can be to be a Muslim but as the overwhelming majority are decent folk they are going to have to take action against the enemy within or else the scum of the British mob will wreak havoc in their communities.

If Baroness Warsi had not petulantly resigned over her lack of promotion she might have been in a position to help. It would be rather refreshing if the usual suspects took to the streets condemning the Islamists rather than calling for a boycott of Israel.

It is easy for us to demand instant action and policy solutions which haven’t properly been thought through. And the sky is black with Blairite chickens coming home to roost. But one thing is very clear ISL will not be defeated by rhetoric only by the bullet. At the moment the West is quite prepared to supply the weapons but is reluctant to pull the trigger. We probably have about two months to put together a policy that Western Democracies and sensible Muslims can rally around. After that we are in really serious trouble both here and abroad. It won’t be long before there will be another atrocity on our streets.



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ISIS are already here. Unless we destroy them everything we hold dear will be lost. Military action in the Middle East is inevitable.

17 Aug 2014 at 14:53

I have no doubt that in a few weeks time British boots will be back on Middle Eastern sand. To topple an a unpopular leader? To educate women? To restore democracy? No. To protect everything this country stands for. Tolerance, decency and respect for others. And democracy.

Last week we had the hideous spectacle of a rapper from Maida Vale with a severed head in his hand. We see regularly see internet statements from those who have been brought up in the UK spitting venom at our hospitality. ‘We don’t want no democracy, we want sharia law and a Caliphate’. Ironically this sort of zeal is often from young men who have been drug dealers and gangsters who in a grotesque distortion of Islam want to atone in an Islamist version of Call of Duty. Except that this is not a computer game but deadly reality.

Sensibly there is a horror at Downing Street of serious military action after the Syrian Commons defeat. Perhaps some of those who voted or cowardly absented themselves from the vote may want to take stock of their consciences. One third of Syria is now in the hands of ISIS. And a quarter of Iraq. It won’t be long before they are storming into our important NATO ally, Turkey.

But these Hydra’s heads must be cut off now. We have to protect those states in the Middle East who deplore these savages who defecate their evil onto the Koran which condemns everything that they stand for.

The West is going to have to grow up and think beyond the opinion polls and focus groups. Cameron warned in the Sunday Telegraph today that unless we act ISIS will be on the shores of the Mediterranean. Yet they are here already. This afternoon I received and email from a friend who lives in Spain. This is what it said.
’We’re not sure whether to take to the hills, or repatriate to the UK, since apparently the Islamic, terrorist organisation in Iraq/Syria, is laying claim to Spain and elsewhere in Europe & North Africa as their legitimate, historic territories.

One of our local English-language, ’free-sheet rags’ has a special feature outlining the claim from ISIS

Moors/Arabs, invaded and took over most of Spain and Portugal from the invasion via Gibraltar in 711 and variously had as their capital city, at any one time, Cordoba, Seville and Granada. They set up ‘taifas’, or regions, one of which they named ‘’al Andalus’. Asturias, in the north, was never captured / annexed and the fight back against the muslims was launched from there. Isabel de Castilla {the modern ‘given Spanish’ language is Castillana} and Fernando of Aragon joined in political unity in 1492 and forced them south and out..

Now, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, head of ISIS {ex Al Qaeda and $10m bounty on his head} is laying historic claim to Andalucia and the rest of the Hispanic peninsular and France!!’

This is not hysterical nonsense. There are those dispossessed youngsters in the EU who share the same sick and misguided views as our own jihadests. They despise everything that we stand for. And given half the chance there would be beheadings in every town centre in Europe.

And here comes the irony. The man charged with steering our Foreign Policy is that Speaking Clock, Philip Hammond. He will be asking his admirable successor at Defence for more resources. This might be a problem. A senior official under Hammond at MOD told me that the chuckle bunny once boasted that he had grappled and succeeded with the greatest problem facing the department. He had balanced the budget. ‘But what about our capability Secretary of State?’
There was a deathly silence.

Well, if we are going to destroy the greatest threat to British democracy since Hitler George is going to come up with some serious dosh.



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Lord protect us the Nige and Bozza circus is coming to town

9 Aug 2014 at 12:03

I suppose that it is an elaborate celestial joke that the two politicians who are beloved of the masses because they are ‘normal’ human beings and not infected with the poison of Westminster are two of the most calculating and deeply cynical hucksters the the party system has spewed onto the electorate.

But hooray, let’s get out the bunting, chill the bubbly and lock up our daughters as the Nige and Bozza circus is coming to town, or rather trying to get to Westminster. I suppose I should be vaguely amused if my toes weren’t curling so much that they are liable to stab me in the heart. Good God are the electorate so psychotically dim with moral compasses spinning like whirling Dervishes that they think that these jokers are remotely equipped to take on the country’s problems? Well, I suppose the answer to that one is that some of these poor deluded loons, when they have pulled themselves away from the Jeremy Kyle show think the answer is a resounding yes. You can tell the cut of these guy’s jibs by their supporters. Nige has a former brothel keeper and Bozza has Nadine Dorries. I wonder which one gives the better public service.

But what I find so intriguing is when, if ever, will the public suddenly realise that these Emperors have no clothes. Bozza’s solemn promises are cast to the ground like used condoms on Hampsted Heath and Nige’s barmy army makes the London dungeon seem a barrel load of laughs. I know that this is the silly season where skateboarding ferrets and amusingly phallic vegetables creep into the papers, but are we going to have to put up with weeks of speculation of where they might be allowed to stand? Er, yes. Give me strength. And a large bottle of gin.



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Baroness Warsi should be a warning to politicians who make appointments for all the wrong reasons

6 Aug 2014 at 05:51

I don’t want to be too unkind about poor old Baroness Warsi but her departure was like so much of her political career, a badly timed stunt. The real question that should occupy David Cameron for a nano second is not why she went but why she was ever appointed to high office in the first place. Well, that one is pretty obvious. She is a woman and a Muslim. And that is about it.

I will now be accused of besmirching the name of a principled woman who wrestled with her conscience and could take no more of Cameron’s support for killing Palestinian children. She will be feted in her community and will be lauded by the usual suspects. There will be glowing articles about her brave stand by those who should know better. Brave? Personally, I thought that it was an act of political cowardice. One of the things one has to learn as a grown up politician is that sometimes it is necessary to hold your nose. She would have been better served if she had told the painful truth to the Muslim community and it is a truth that they don’t really want to hear. Hamas is not just a government, it is a terrorist organisation. It is committed, like so many other other arab states, to wiping Israel off the face of the earth. They murder anyone who disagrees with them. They send terrorists through specially constructed tunnels to kill Israeli civilians. They kidnap and kill teenagers. And most wicked of all they use Palestinian innocents, particularly children as human shields. And they have no stomach for peace.

Does that mean that I, or for that matter the government, support what the Israelis have been doing? Of course not. Hamas, not the Palestinian state has to be destroyed. But any fool knows that history should have taught us that the Israelis regard the West as rather craven. After all we opposed the State of Israel purely so we could get our sticky fingers on arab oil. But megaphone diplomacy has always been counterproductive. No matter what we say or do Israel will protect herself.

There is also a rather bizarre suggestion that somehow the Foreign office is pro Israel. I would imagine that quite a few Sir Humphreys will be having a few belly laughs at that.

What Warsi should have been doing is not telling British Muslims what they want to hear but what the uncomfortable reality is; Hamas are an evil and the Israelis are behaving appallingly. That bringing either before a criminal court may make us all feel warm, fuzzy and self righteous but won’t bring about a settlement where both nations can co exist in peace. What as a Muslim she should be doing is warning of the horrors of anti semitism that is sweeping across Europe.

There has been a great deal of hysteria about Warsi’s departure on the twitter sphere and the delightful, but hopelessly misguided Louise Mensch has been burbling that the Tory Party have ganged up on her because she is a Muslim woman. What utter bollocks. David Cameron, like me is from the sort of upbringing that find it bemusing that anyone should be discriminated against by reason of their skin, gender, sexual orientation or beliefs. His mistake was appointing her in the first place for all the wrong reasons. I don’t want to to be too unkind to someone I am told is a thoroughly pleasant woman, but Warsi was the most hopeless and cringeworthy party chairman I have ever encountered. And the bar is not a high one. She was a walking disaster. So to keep her out of harms way she was shoved into the job in the lift at the FO. There I suspect lies the real problem. When that gothic gloom, Philip Hammond, descended on the place like a Dementor without the laughs, he thumbed through his first day brief and found the name Warsi. ‘Ah, so that what she does’, he would have murmured to officials. It will be interesting to see who fills the job as it has the responsibility for human rights which is a car crash waiting to happen.

But does anyone ever learn in the Tory Party? Of course not. It appears we are making Karen Brady, aide to Alan Sugar (doesn’t that ring alarm bells boys?) on a telly show a Baroness and give her a businessy jobby, thingy. Sometimes I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.



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It's time for clarity on human rights. There is too much political testosterone causing subpoena envy

18 Jul 2014 at 06:27

The Conservative Party is going to get itself in a terrible mess over the Human Rights Act. As David Cameron will soon discover, changing the lawyer is not going to solve the problem. Now is the time for clarity without looking through the prism of party advantage.

Firstly, a non political saunter through the law. In 1959 Britain and 46 other European States signed up the the European Convention of Human Rights. Article 46 says that governments, must abide by final decisions of the Court. The UK Parliament freely bound itself to this.

In 1998 the UK Parliament passed the Human Rights Act. It chose its words in section 2 (1)(a) very carefully, that our courts must take into account any judgement, decision, declaration or advisory opinion of the EHCR.
They are not bound to follow, nor can they ignore.
And here’s the problem, our courts are not obliged to obey decisions but our Parliament is.

Now back to basics. The EHCR was set up to prevent the appalling abuses of Nazi Germany infecting the continent of Europe again. It provides basic human rights which would be no different to if we drew up our own British Human Rights Bill. This is not surprising as it was the Brits who drafted it after the Nuremberg trials, in particular David Maxwell Fife who became a rather illiberal Conservative Home Secretary. History sometimes has a sense of irony.
The trouble is that the EHCR was never intended to be the final court of Appeal for its member states. It was designed to prevent governments oppressing its peoples. It seems to have departed from these sensible principles and has become a megaphone for political interference in countries where there is no democratic deficit. The classic case is votes for prisoners, something which should be a matter for sovereign Parliaments alone.

So how do we sort out the seemingly contradictory laws which says on the one hand Parliament is bound by ECHR decisions whilst our courts are not? Whatever advice any Attorney General gives is not going to be believed. If Jeremy Wright makes an unlikely volte face he will be accused of being a right wing stooge. If he follows the line of Dominic Grieve the right will accuse him of being a Europhile.

It is worth reminding ourselves what advice Grieve has been giving. It is simply the law. Irritating as the EHCR can be, if we pulled out it would make it very difficult for us to remain in the EU, because of the European Court in Luxembourg. This court ensures that member states of the EU obeys the Treaty of Rome and all subsidiary treaties. It may find itself trying to enforce EHCR decisions on non convention members. If we disobey that lot we would be obliged to leave the EU.

This analysis is purely legal and it is the advice that will be given by the the commission set up to investigate this. I am trying to avoid the fetid politics and all talk about Britain’s obligation to obey the rule of law. Those are arguments for another post.

If ever there is a case for taking the politics out of a dilemma it is this one. Politicians in the run up to general elections have a habit of doing silly things for party advantage. There is a legal way round this. A few months ago the then Lord Chief Justice Igor Judge, alluded to these problems and suggested that the Supreme Court should wrestle with the two seemingly conflicting positions. He is right. Judges don’t run for election. They are trusted. They are above party politics. A ruling from them on a point of such vital constitutional importance will lead the way forward for political decisions. Good heavens we might even have a Cabinet decision which has been properly thought through!

Personally, I am all in favour of our Supreme Court being the ultimate court of Appeal. They are experienced in politely telling the EHCR when they are wrong. Let them decide. Let them give guidance to Parliament which at least will be independent. At the moment there is too much political testosterone and subpoena envy. And too much talk of rushing out ill flaky promises in party manifestos.



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The PM's que guapo moment.

16 Jul 2014 at 08:06

This was a very strange and totally unpredictable reshuffle. It is neither a disaster nor a triumph. Just a little odd.

I was pondering yesterday whether the appointment of Hammond to the Foreign Office was an act of insanity, vandalism or just an elaborate and inexplicable joke. The chuckle bunny had a terrible relationship with his officials and the top brass at MOD were as ecstatic at their loss as the FO mandarins were horrified at their gain. And the appointment of my old chum Michael Fallon as Defence Secretary is to be applauded. He is very good news and should have been promoted years ago.

But I still don’t understand Hammond’s purpose other than window dressing to appease the Euro carpet biters. He is hardly a Cameroon. If the PM was on fire the funster would be on record as being the first to grab a fire extinguisher, but he, as his duty, would be checking the safety protocols in such detail as to be unable to put out the blaze. He recoiled in horror at same sex marriage, but not enough to appear personally disloyal and he is keen to get out of Europe, but not so keen to appear to be personally disloyal. When his is invited to Kitchen Supper (now that will be a barrel load of laughs) the PM should sup with a very long spoon.

Perhaps he is Cameron’s life raft when it comes to the referendum. If Euro reforms receive the Hammond seal of approval then Cameron might be able to stop his party falling apart. But it does mean that foreign policy will be driven from Number 10. Hague will go down as one of the great Foreign Secretaries, seamlessly able, totally loyal to Cameron, so much so that he was allowed to get on with the job in his own way. Hammond will not have that freedom.

In fifteenth century Spain women courtiers would keep a monkey on their shoulder to distract people from their ugliness. Even now the expression for female beauty is Que Guapo or how monkey like. At the moment when Cameron rocks the cosy European consensus boat they find it all rather tiresome. After a few months of dry as dust meetings with Hammond whose smile resembles the brass plate on a coffin, mean that Cameron will be welcomed with open arms. Positively feted. This is the PM’s Que Guapo moment with Hammond as the monkey.

So his appointment is both life raft and distraction. Even better, Brussels will know that Cameron is deadly serious about the consequences if the EU is not reformed. This is all so delightfully Machiavellian that it could only have originated from George Osborne. Which is rather reassuring.

Gove is rather fascinating too. Uber loyalist and utterly brilliant. The one Cabinet minister who through sheer force of personality has forced through popular and ground breaking reforms in education. But now is time for a little bit of TLC for teachers who have a hot line to parents. The policy will remain, but it will be presented in a more motherly way. Gove may now be the minister for the Today programme but Nicky Morgan is the minister for Mumsnet.

However, I am worried about the dismissal of Dominic Grieve and Oliver Heald the Attorney and Solicitor General. Men of integrity, honour and moderation who were not afraid to uses their offices for the public good rather than party advantage. The danger of sacking them is that they will now openly speak out about the way that abomination Grayling is destroying our legal system.

And the new Attorney Jeremy Wright? A good man and a former practising criminal barrister from Birmingham. He will not be a soft touch. If I was Grayling I would not be cracking open the bubbly. I’d be looking over my shoulder.


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Number 10 needs to get a grip on the Dickens dossier disappearance before this turns into a political scandal

5 Jul 2014 at 13:35

I have been wracking my brains to recall what we knew and what we suspected about Parliamentarians being involved in paedophilia during my time in the Commons as an MP and a journalist between 1983 and 2002. The terrible realisation is that the answer is precious little. Despite Fleet Street and Parliament being a rumour mill there was a lot chat, very little detail and no tangible proof. We all knew who was gay, who was bisexual and who was shagging whom, gay or straight with innumerable perverse permutations to spice it all up. Our tribunes are not much different from anybody else except that they have more opportunities to get up to naughties.

Of course we knew about the mortuary exploits of Jimmy Savile and his penchant for amputees. But we had no proof. We knew about Cyril Smith, various peers, senior people within Number 10, but again, no proof. And despite all my years of propping up bars and sifting the most bizarre gossip about the sexual practices of various Home Office ministers, usually served up by vindictive Police Federation whispers, most of the stuff was fairly flaky. My favourite piece of nonsense was about a senior labour Cabinet Minister who was unable to reach orgasm unless he stabbed young bunnies in a shoe box by the bed. And many of us watched, as was our duty, grainy footage of some unidentifiable old boy, grunting over what was said to be an underage boy. We were told it was a well known grandee. It could have been anyone. And the well known rumour that a very senior Labour figure was having sex with underaged boys in car parks, cautioned by the police and the paperwork destroyed, was pure malicious fantasy. The only evidence that seemed to stack was about Cyril Smith; but not enough to safely print.

But there was absolutely no gossip that I can remember about a paedophile ring in the heart of government. This doesn’t mean that there wasn’t one. It’s just that child sex offenders are the most manipulative and deceitful of criminals. They are chameleons, genetic freaks blending into a world of normality, so that they can pounce un-noticed. They are nearly always people you would not suspect. Pillars of the community, God fearing churchgoers, professional men; those of power and influence. Their very respectability gives them an impunity. Stewart Hall? You must be joking. Rolf Harris? Are you out of your mind?

So those with the deepest, darkest and sickest secrets are masters of the art of deception. It is the only way they can survive. Unless they are foolish enough to leave a paper trail they are almost impossible to track down. And they are skilled in the art of camouflage.

I am genuinely mystified at what happened to Geoffrey Dickens’ dossier in 1983 when he handed to Home Secretary Leon Brittan. I knew Dickens very well. He was a fearless campaigner for the protection of children. But the loveable old boy was never seen as a serious figure by the establishment. Was his dossier a rehash of flaky unprovable gossip or was it something more substantial? My instincts is that it was the latter as some information was sent to the DPP for consideration. Although that appears to have been lost too. But there must be a paper trail. And what of the law officers? If there was a degree of sensitivity due to allegations about public figures I would be amazed if they were not asked for advice. Another paper trail.

And who was the Attorney General? Sir Michael Havers. A man so utterly straight and independent minded that he threatened to send the police into Number 10 unless Thatcher cooperated over the leaking of papers in the Westland scandal. And who was his Solicitor General? Sir Patrick Mayhew. Another fearless independent minded man. If these men had suspected a cover up which could interfere in the course of justice they would have resigned and brought down the government. And their are some interesting coincidences. Mayhew was Minister of State at the Home office until June 1983 and Leon Brittan was the Trade Secretary at the centre of the Westland affair.

I popped onto the terrace on Wednesday and spoke to some senior journalists whose judgement I take seriously. They are beginning to think that there is a corker of a story here. All the more reason for David Cameron to order a swift judge led inquiry to pull the loose ends together. We need to know the following.
What action and by whom was taken over this dossier.
What was the protocol for the storing of documents.
How could it have gone missing.
What letters were written to Dickens.
What do the minutes of meetings about the dossier contain.
What was sent to the DPP and what action was taken.
What do the departmental minutes contain.
What action was taken over burglaries at Geoffrey Dickens’ London and constituency homes.
Do the police reports still exist.

Number 10 has got to get a grip on this quickly. The appointment of a civil servant to look into this has all the fingerprints of Jeremy Haywood. This is either going to be a massive political story with groundbreaking consequences or it will be a pathetic tale of complacency and cock up. Whatever it turns out to be this is a time for speed and transparency. Something went horribly wrong in 1983. The public must be told which it was, no matter how embarrassing to the then administration.

Norman Tebbit, keeper of the flame of St Margaret, appreciates the need for a full and frank and speedy investigation. I hope that David Cameron realises how big this will become.



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Juncker is a lame duck president before he has even swum onto the pond

28 Jun 2014 at 09:36

A few days ago John Major, with characteristic good sense, gave us a clue what would happen when Juncker ascends into Euro heaven. A sense of guilt would prevail that Britain had been hard done by and that amends need to be made. This prediction was borne out by Merkel’s comments this morning that Britain’s concerns need to be addressed. Other European leaders will follow. But the swivel eyed wing on the Tory party are a little confused. They are delighted that the cosy, corrupt hypocrisy of European politics has been beamed into everyone’s living room at prime time. But ironically a serious renegotiation is now almost a certainty. And if the opinion polls are right this means that an exit from the EU is highly unlikely. They will argue for an early exit.

But if the swivel eyed are confused it is nothing compared to the disarray in Europe. They are genuinely horrified that a leader hasn’t fallen into line after a bit of shouting and screaming for the cameras and the punters. Europe has never quite understood the way Cameron does politics. Of course he can pork barrel as good as anyone but he can be very stubborn over a point of principle. And the principle here is pretty simple. Juncker is a total disaster. A drunk, a bully and a true believer in a United States of Europe. Mention reform to him and he will probably think you are about to treat him to a slap up lunch at a Pall Mall club. As much use as a cat flap in a submarine. And privately that’s what the majority of leaders think. The trouble is it’s what they think in private and not in public. This is just the sort of double dealing shittery that their electorates despise. For the first time since Margaret Thatcher’s brick filled hand bag thumped on the Brussels negotiating table that the British bulldog has not just barked but bitten. But Cameron is not the divisive figure that Thatcher was. He has considerable charm and knows how to play the game. But he has come out of this stronger. And it takes courage to be humiliated. His stand would not have crossed the mind of Blair, Brown or any Miliband. It would have been unthinkable.

But what of Juncker? He is a dead duck president before he has even swum onto the pond. He knows what the other leaders really think of him. He will be in office not in power. Merkel will be in the driving seat. And he may not last the course. The press will be digging for tales of drunken outbursts. They will not be disappointed.

And what of Farage? His relevance is beginning to dwindle. One former Tory MP confided in me the other evening, ‘I voted UKIP in the Euros because I hate Cameron and everything he stands for. But this is a simple means and end argument. To vote UKIP at the general election means we will get a Labour government; no way’.

I may be hopelessly wrong, but those commentators with the exception of dear old Simon Heffer who put the boot in this morning, might be reviewing their opinion that Cameron is a man of style rather than substance.



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Macmillan and Napoleon III were quite good news. Such strange Cummings and goings

16 Jun 2014 at 10:34

“My biggest mistake”, said Norman Tebbit about Margaret Thatcher, his voice aching with irony, “was leaving her to the care of her friends”. Cabinet ministers take note. The moment your SPAD goes on a frolic of their own in madcap briefings to ‘assist’ their charges by denouncing their perceived enemies it is time for them to move on. Fiona Cunningham, May’s in house sieve, paid the price for loose cannonry.

But what of Dominic Cummings? As Churchill might have said, “some bull, some china shop”. He is chewing up newsprint for making a personal attack on David Cameron. “He has a picture of Harold Macmillan on his wall. That says it all”. God, the sheer wickedness of it. Or maybe dear old Dom was taken out of context. Perhaps he really said Harold Shipman. I suspect that the lederhosen wing of the Tory party might have secretly approved of the good doctor’s plans to slim down the Health Service and cut waste.

But as insults go this one rather backfires. Under Macmillan, we had low unemployment and a booming economy. And record house building. He also believed that social welfare was like a game of snakes and ladders. When someone slides down the snake the state should be there to give them a ladder of opportunity. I think that I should have his picture on my wall too.

The cruellest jibe was meant to be the remark attributed to Bismarck about Napoleon III, “a sphinx without a riddle”. Actually apart from a little bit of repression to begin with the old boy was rather enlightened. He modernised the French banking system, encouraged savings, gave workers the right to strike and was a supporter of popular sovereignty. And now for the delicious irony, he introduced a national curriculum involving the teaching of Geography, history, the arts, modern languages and sport. Rather radical for those days.I think that I will get a little picture of him for my wall too.

But what is so remarkable about the story is that Cummings is no longer Gove’s representative on earth or anywhere else. He fell off the perch a while ago. It has long been reported that his spell in Whitehall was ‘divisive’ which is code for a ‘bloody nightmare’. Yet although he may well be a devotee of team Gove he is not doing his former boss any favours. And he has form for it. He was alleged to be responsible for briefing against the LibDem plan (which admittedly is well meaning but a little bonkers) for free school meals. Cleggy hit the roof and was considering (not for very long) having the boy arrested for breach of the Official Secrets Act. Ever so slightly over the top. And then Cummings went all swivel eyed about Cameron asking Gove to write a joint article with David Laws singing the praises of state funded Spam fritters for the many and not the few. But if you really want to know where the real antagonism to Cameron comes from look no further than Andy Coulson’s refusal to countenance Cummings’s appointment as a SPAD. Gove slipped him in under the radar after Coulson’s departure.

I would imagine that Gove is utterly mortified that Cummings has become a low level Lord Oakshott. He really is going to give the boy a public smacking. Such strange Cummings and goings.



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