Posts Tagged ‘Boris Johnson’

The Monday column: British politics has been reduced to farce

06/11/2017, 10:00:14 PM

It used to be said that a week was a long time in politics.

Not this past seven days, they have gone in a blur.

Every day, fresh revelations about our priapic politicians – ranging from the sordid to the pathetic to the downright dangerous – have filled column inches and clogged the airwaves. In the process, British politics has been reduced to farce.

It started with a Tory MP sending his secretary to purchase dildos. It ends with rape allegations and a trickle of MPs being suspended or referring themselves to their party’s hastily beefed-up disciplinary committees.

Forty Tory MPs are said to be on a list of miscreants, with the whips office being reduced to a chaperone service, ‘man-marking’ sozzled sex pests.

A defence secretary, forced to resign after a string of moments of madness.

A government whip, Chris Pincher, is also gone after allegations he made a pass at a young man.

Theresa May’s closest Cabinet ally, the first Secretary, Damian Green, left fighting for his political life after allegations ‘extreme’ pornography was found on his computer (an allegation, to be fair, he flatly denies).

The Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, has had to plead with the Iranians to disregard his words after a criminally loose-lipped Commons performance blithely cut across the case of a British citizen locked up in Iranian custody while Priti Patel, the International Development Secretary, the most junior occupant at the Cabinet table, has been exposed as dissembling about meeting foreign leaders without her bosses’ knowledge.

Not to be outdone, Labour has its own list of six MPs who are thought to erred from the path virtue. Two MPs, Jared O’Mara and Kelvin Hopkins, are suspended. Others will follow.

As this farrago of drunken lust and stupidity continues to unfurl in all its ignominy, Brexit has dropped out of the headlines.

Some will be thankful for the relief; but we should not be so easily distracted. Critical issues about our country’s future are being side-lined.

Interest rates are creeping up, even though the economy remains in a precarious state.

While no-one is watching, the Government floats the suggestion it could cough up £53 billion in an EU divorce settlement.

Centrist politics remains demoralised and leaderless as ideologues from the left and right dominate.

The NHS is spluttering to a standstill, starved of investment.

Housing remains in short supply and unaffordable for millions.

Living standards and wage growth remains flat, despite a record number of people in work.

Yet our parliamentary system has found no time to discuss any of these burning injustices.

British politics has been brought into disrepute this week. Not just because of the salacious stupidity of our elected representatives and what they have done.

Rather it’s because of what they are not doing.

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The West must now tread very carefully in Syria

31/01/2017, 01:27:03 PM

by Julian Glassford

Rebel forces have just lost their last toehold in Aleppo. Now residents displaced by conflict may begin to return to (what’s left of) Syria’s historic second city. Whilst we should of course recognise the horrific devastation wrought, mourn the casualties, and put pressure on all sides to cease their use of indiscriminate/inhumane tactics, surely this is cause for relief? Downing Street and the Foreign Office don’t seem convinced.

Having openly criticised Saudi Arabian and Iranian involvement in regional “proxy wars” recently, alas, within days naughty boy Boris Johnson had rowed back on this bout of intellectual honesty. The British Foreign Secretary was back on-message in time to deliver a hastily reworked speech at the Manama Dialogue Summit, where he spoke of a need to engage and work with such countries to encourage and support reform. Emerging from a meeting of foreign ministers in Paris, a day later, he added: “there can be no military solution in Syria”. Notably among attendees at said event was the school-masterly US secretary of state, John Kerry.

Whether Mr. Johnson appreciates that a peaceful, diplomatic resolution to the Syrian civil war remains a prospect every bit as distant as meaningful, progressive reform across the Arabian Peninsula is unknown. Whatever the case, and however one feels about the UK’s idiosyncratic top ambassador, he certainly seems to be spending a lot of time on the road, actively seeking out foreign counterparts, stimulating debate, and occasionally shifting it significantly. All of a sudden the Yemeni  civil war has been back in the news, for example.

The Syrian conflict has now been raging for almost as long as the entire duration of the Second World War. So far, no attempt at a mediated civil settlement has gained any real traction, despite several attempts, with ceasefires having lasted no more than a few months. Scholars of international relations, ethnography, and conflict and security will tell you that there is a reason for this: the battle President Bashar al-Assad and his supporters are fighting is an existential one.

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Theresa May is right to be wary of criticising Trump. This isn’t Love Actually

30/01/2017, 06:55:12 PM

by Kevin Meagher

How far should Theresa May have gone in upbraiding the immigration policies of President Trump?

If she had listened to the sustained Twitterburst over the weekend, and then again this afternoon, she would have channelled her inner-Hugh Grant and recited that pompous load of tosh his fictional prime minister ladles over the smarmy US president in Love Actually:

‘I fear that this has become a bad relationship. A relationship based on the President taking exactly what he wants and casually ignoring all those things that really matter to, erm… Britain’.

Instead, she despatched the home and foreign secretaries to speak to their US counterparts and, gently, one assumes, articulate the government’s displeasure about the effects on British citizens with dual-nationality from the seven (mainly Islamic) countries affected by Trump’s new edict. Within the remit given, they seem to have secured her desired result.

It’s hardly gunboats up the Potomac.

But that’s as far as the Prime Minister should go.

Of course, Theresa May has not handled this adroitly. She could have saved herself a lot of political strife if she had got out in front of this issue from the start.

Downing Street should have robustly made the (obvious) point that longstanding protocol dictates that prime ministers do not comment on the internal affairs of the US, but that, at the official level, the law of unintended consequences vis-à-vis British nationals would be pointed out.

Diplomatic niceties are there for good reason. Do we want Donald Trump responding in kind and coming out for Scottish independence?

Theresa May’s strategic responsibility is to secure an alliance with the new White House that will, in turn, deliver a suitable bilateral trade deal once we leave the EU.

Clearly Trump is a mercurial figure, so why jeopardise a successful initial meeting just so she can ‘virtue signal’ to the Twitterari?

Disagree? Then can anyone point to precedents where British PMs have publicly criticised key domestic policies of US Presidents?

Theresa May’s detractors are genuine, sure, but this is high-stakes international statecraft we’re dealing with, not passing a resolution in the junior common room.

Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron would have done exactly the same thing as Theresa May: Look a bit embarrassed, soak up the anger about being America’s poodle, then issue the most anaemic, mealy-mouthed coded criticism that lands no more than a glancing blow.

Rest assured, the flaws in Trump’s policy will do for it and common sense will prevail by April.

Making sure Britain has the best chance of surviving as a trading nation outside the EU must be the government’s overriding concern.

We need to properly accept that Brexit means we are living in an age of realpolitik. Idealists who want to wag their fingers at Donald Trump are free to do so; but they should not pretend this is anything other than idle posturing.

Britain is leaving the EU and Donald Trump is now US President. These are now immutable facts.

The task is to work with the grain of these twin realities and ameliorate the worst excesses of both.

It might not be pretty, but that’s grown-up politics.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Uncut

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Britain must do better than a choice of Johnson or Corbyn for PM

26/06/2016, 09:58:49 PM

by George Kendall

Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn. Is that an acceptable choice for Prime Minister?

Boris Johnson is a man who his former employers sacked as a liar, who has sold Brexit on the basis of a series of lies, yet he is the odds on favorite to lead the Tory party, and appears set to call a new General Election in the autumn.

Jeremy Corbyn has claimed he did all he could to avoid Brexit, but half his shadow cabinet appear to think otherwise and are resigning. One Labour campaign source claims the head of the Labour In campaign, Alan Johnson, asked for a meeting with Corbyn in April and was told the only available date would be July, after the Referendum.

Neither Johnson nor Corbyn are fit to be Prime Minister.

The country is in an unprecedented political, constitutional, economic and existential crisis. It may well break up.

The First Minister of Scotland is preparing for a second referendum to leave the Union, and Northern Ireland may do so as well. During the campaign, voters were assured this would not happen.

Those campaigning to Leave have now splintered into two camps, one for retaining trade agreements with our largest market, the other for ending them. Their campaign was based on a series of promises that they are both now disowning.

It would be a travesty if there were no viable candidate for Prime Minister who represented the values of the 48% who voted to Remain in the EU.

Once it becomes clear what leaving would involve, and if, as seems likely, the major promises made by Leave turn out to be false, it may be that the British people will want a further chance to express their view on this. If so, we should give them that opportunity.

If those who want a tolerant, outward looking and honest government are unable to prevent Johnson and Corbyn from being the leaders of Labour and the Conservatives this autumn, they need a viable alternative. What that choice is, depends on many things, but most of all, it depends on who is willing to put country before party.

Once we know the result of the Conservative leadership election, there may be an immediate general election, so we cannot afford to wait. If the 48% are to have the voice they deserve, we need to start organising now.

George Kendall is convener of the Social Democrat Group – a Liberal Democrat organisation to develop the social democrat tradition of the Liberal Democrats, and to build links with social democrats in the Labour party

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Brexit poses existential challenges for Labour, the UK and the EU

25/06/2016, 09:28:47 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Labour is over. The UK is over. The EU is over. For sake of something that Daniel Hannan now concedes won’t necessarily happen: a fall in immigration.

We have conspired to legitimise Nicola Sturgeon’s call for a second Scottish referendum: a vote that seems likely to precipitate the UK’s breakup. Another vote in Northern Ireland may create a united Ireland around 100 years after partition.

While Jeremy Corbyn may be pleased by Ireland’s reunification, the breakup of the UK, closing off any Scottish Labour recovery within the union, reduces the prospect of Labour government. And this may not even be Labour’s biggest problem. Within England, the referendum exposed the perhaps unbridgeable divide between Labour’s liberal, metropolitan and socially conservative, provincial supporters.

The French cousins of that latter group dance to Marie Le Pen’s tune. The EU will muddle through Brexit but not Frexit, as President Le Pen threatens.

It is hard to believe that Boris Johnson – a Conservative and Unionist MP – intends the UK’s breakup; that Gisela Stuart wishes Labour to be so weakened; that the usually Whiggish Michael Gove wants the Europe that historian Sir Ian Kershaw sees opening up: “28 competing countries and in the hands of Le Pen, Orban, Kaczynski and the nationalists, a Europe breaking up.”

But that is where Johnson, Stuart and Gove – by acquiescing with the poison of Nigel Farage – have left us, which is unforgivable.

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The Norway model is Britain’s only hope

25/06/2016, 08:14:19 PM

by Ella Mason

I am bereaved.

The referendum result has knocked me for six. I have always been determinedly pro-Europe. So much so that my political friends mock me for being a rubbish Tory because of my love for the EU (alongside a couple of other lefty things).

I realised this morning that is because being British in Europe is a huge part of my identity and that has been torn apart overnight.

I saw Britain as part of a great project of cooperation. I thought we had found a way of maintaining peace through the imperative of economic collaboration.

I believe free markets are the best way to generate the wealth we need to lift up the poorest while creating amazing lives for ourselves. But I understand that a pure free market is a thing from a text book: it isn’t possible in reality.

The EU single market and all the regulation involved in creating and maintaining it was actually taking it and us toward that goal, not away from it as so many people would have you believe. The regulation involved was about homogenising the market to allow us to trade freely not about micromanaging our entrepreneurial flair.

I believe in free trade and with it freedom of movement across borders. Migration of the labour force is central to free trade. Any libertarian will tell you that. In fact, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove will tell you that.

I agree with both of them about a lot of things economic which is why I cannot comprehend why they thought this was a good idea.

The only thing I can really think is that they didn’t actually think they could win. They saw it as a route to winning a Tory leadership election down the line in 2019; not as something that would actually happen and that they would subsequently have to manage now.

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Britain’s Brexit vote has redrawn the rules of British politics

24/06/2016, 04:22:03 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Everything is different.

It’s not just the enormity of Britain deciding to leave the EU that is momentous or the inevitable installation of Prime Minister Boris Johnson but the nature of the campaign which led to this decision that leaves the political landscape utterly transformed.

British politics used to obey a simple rule. It used to be the economy stupid.

No more.

This vote was a straight contest of priorities for the public between immigration and the economy.

The public made a clear decision.

Underpinning that choice might be some nuance.

The manner in which claims of dire economic consequence from Brexit were disregarded highlights just how bad many Britons regard their current lot.

For this group, the transmission belt that connects the macro-economic with the kitchen table is evidently broken.

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Remain will win easily. Boris will be irrelevant and immigration will barely register in voters’ choice

23/02/2016, 12:47:38 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Last year, in the aftermath of the general election it looked like Westminster had learnt that the economy and leadership are central to determining the public’s voting intention at the big electoral tests.

Now we have an EU referendum looming and there’s been a bout of collective amnesia.

Yes, I know this is not a general election but the same formula of economy and leadership is relevant for largely the same reasons as last year.

Immigration is the issue that many Brexiteers think will tip the balance their way. But just as Ukip found last year, they’re misreading the polls.

There is a very familiar gap between the number who view immigration as the most important issue facing the country and those who view it as important to their household’s well-being.

At the general election, 51% thought immigration was the key issue facing Britain but only 21% believed it mattered most to their lives.

Unsurprisingly, immigration was not a major factor in the contest.

In the last poll to ask the relevant questions, by YouGov, from last September – following a summer of daily coverage of refugees travelling to Europe – the number citing immigration as the most important national issue was the highest on record at 71%. But the number who thought it most important for their family was 24% – a gap of 47%.

Think about that for a moment.

Even after a summer of non-stop reporting of fleeing refugees entering Europe, lurid stories from the Calais “jungle” and hyperbolic headlines, the proportion thinking that immigration mattered most for their lives rose by just 3% from 21% at the election to 24% at the start of September.

In comparison, in the same poll, the number saying the economy was the most important issue for their household was 40%. That’s 16% ahead of immigration.

In every single poll conducted by YouGov in the five and half years that they’ve been asking these questions, this gap has never been less than 16%.

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A little dignity and a little pride from Labour’s MPs would be welcome

12/02/2015, 10:14:30 PM

by Rob Marchant

While Labour has not had a brilliant last couple of weeks in the election campaign – its barely-coherent policy on the NHS being a case in point – the jury is still emphatically out on who will win, thanks largely to this parliament’s highly unusual electoral arithmetic.

With things so tight in the polls, a big part of winning for both main parties is surely about their MPs keeping their heads down and their eyes on the prize. In other words, it is as much about thinking that they will win and convincing others of that fact, as pounding the streets of Britain on the “Labour doorstep”.

So discipline is vital. The Tories, now battle-hardened after “holding the line” through five years of government, seem to be making a reasonable fist of it (even Boris Johnson has had the good sense to absent himself abroad, rather than be a distraction to the Tory campaign).

Labour, well, not so much.

Not only does there seem to be something of a downbeat mood in the PLP but, in some cases, things have moved further.

To wit, there is little less edifying a sight than frontbenchers deliberately putting themselves in the newspapers, as ways not of promoting Labour’s election campaign or manifesto, but themselves. As candidates in a future leadership election, for which a date has not even been set and which may not happen for another five or ten years.

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The real scandal of the tube strike is that we’ve stopped defending the right to strike

06/02/2014, 03:43:50 PM

by Sam Fowles

In my attempts to subvert the south west London blogger stereotype I’ve abandoned my usual method of writing these things (MacBook in Starbucks). Unfortunately I haven’t found anywhere I like quite as much as Starbucks (I know they don’t pay any tax but I just really really love those blueberry muffins) so I’m typing this on my iPhone on Putney Station platform. Essentially I’ve just reduced the size of the Apple device and got colder. Today I am eternally grateful to Bob Crow and the RMT for giving me the extra time to write as, thanks to the tube strike, every train has been full to bursting and I’ve now been sat here for 45 minutes. I’d also like to pass on my sincere thanks for finally providing me with the opportunity to quote The Amateur Transplants in a post. So here goes: “I’m standing here in the pouring rain…” (If you don’t know the rest go listen to the actual song)

Apparently I’m not the only one inconvenienced. David Cameron is calling on everyone from Ed Miliband to the Pope (probably) to condemn the “Union Barons” (TM) who are “holding the capital to ransom”. Boris Johnson apparently refuses to negotiate  with a “gun to his head” and everyone agrees that the Tube is vital to the London economy and thus stopping it working is a terribly bad thing. This argument might seem a little less hollow had the government itself not cut funding for this supposedly vital service by 8.5%.

This isn’t actually going to be a post about the tube strike. Even though it’s vying with the Mutiny on the Bounty and the Spartacus Uprising for title of “Worst Handled Industrial Dispute in History”.The only thing more amateur than the industrial relations of this dispute is the reporting. A strike represents a failure in negotiation of both labour and management. If Johnson and co really think that keeping the tube running is that important then they should have made more effort to negotiate a settlement. I’m just an (increasingly damp) observer but if Bob Crow won’t negotiate until Johnson agrees to postpone the order his proposed changes and Johnson won’t negotiate until Crow postpones the strike can’t they just postpone them both and stop bitching at each other on LBC?

But there’s a wider point to be made here. The tube strike has thrown up all the classic arguments about “holding the country to ransom”, whether the unions control the Labour party and why strikes should be banned. Of course, none of these would pass scrutiny in a sixth form debating society but apparently they’re good enough to be trotted out by the leaders of the land.

That said, for the less analytic minds out there:

1. Accusing Unions of “holding the country to ransom” when they go on strike for two days is incredibly hypocritical when bankers threaten to flee the country permanently and en mass whenever anyone suggests they should pay a fair share of taxes.

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