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Porto

I couldn’t help recognising the scene in this photo from Saturday’s Guardian Review:-

Porto

It was illustrating an ensemble piece about various writers’ relationship with Europe.

The photo brought back memories of that wonderful trip we took down (and up) the River Douro from just that jetty in the picture and which I featured in this post:-

aBuildings 20 yacht  river bank

And this one:-

Porto Buildings from Bank of River Douro

Curiously an item on Reporting Scotland on Thursday? night about the trip of Rangers to Porto for a Europa League* game also showed scenes of the same jetty. Synchronicity.

*So-called.

A Rabbit Hole

Words fail me.

We stagger on from one absurdity to another.

Can someone tell me how sending an unsigned letter corresponds to complying with a law that says a letter must be sent? After all, if you sent an unsigned cheque through the post it has no legal standing.

Not only is he a blustering buffoon (posts passim) Alexander de Pfeffel Johnson is utterly childish. This behaviour is just one big, “Yah boo sucks,” to Parliament, to which he is now in contempt of. (Not to mention contempt of the law itself and the Queen who signed it.)

Any claim that the UK once had to being a serious country is now lying shattered on the ground. It’s not even a banana monarchy now.

What year was it the world fell down a rabbit hole.

A Land Grab?

An entirely predictable outcome to the announcement of US troop withdrawals from the region, perhaps even co-ordinated with it, Turkey’s military action in the north of Syria cannot be aimed at anybody other than the Kurdish forces which have done so much to rid the area of Isis influence.

The combination of these actions can only lead to resentment on the part of the Kurds towards the US. (They already knew Turkey – at least Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Turkey – was an enemy.)

Erdoğan has long regarded Kurds as adversaries because ethnic Kurds in South Turkey have for as long as I can remember sought for a degree of autonomy from the Government in Ankara. Some previous Turkish governments had had some sympathy to their requests but Erdoğan seems to deny any other ethnicity can exist within Turkey and regards everyone who lives within its borders as only being able to be Turkish. The Kurds also give him a handy scapegoat for any opposition in the south of Turkey to the central government. He calls them terrorists. His designation of north Syria as a “terror corridor” is clearly self-serving but may also be a prediction. I doubt the people living there – including those Syrians displaced there by the civil war in that country – will find Turkish rule any more benign than that of Bashar al-Assad.

Erdoğan’s proposed invasion looks to me like a land grab, designed solely to increase Turkey’s territory. He probably intends never to withdraw from what is actually Syrian sovereign territory. Kurds have had the singular misfortune to live in an area of the world where their population is distributed over the territory of four different countries (not only Turkey and Syria but also Iran and Iraq) – and not had one of their own to call home.

With the restraining hand of the US on Turkey removed, their outlook would seem to be bleak.

Surrender? Humbug!

Yesterday I also missed this live.

The blustering buffoon calling the act to ensure that the UK doesn’t leave the EU without a deal a “betrayal” and a “surrender.”

Well, Mr Johnson. I wasn’t aware that the UK was at war with the EU. If there was a declaration of such a war I must have missed it.

If war has not indeed been declared then there is no possibility of surrender so your words are nonsensical. (Not that that is anything new coming from your mouth. It’s like the old joke. How do you know when Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is lying?)

Then there is his dismissal of the receipt of death threats by female (and other) members of Parliament being encouraged by his use of language. Describing concerns over these threats as “humbug” is utterly reprehensible.

If he had any self-awareness, any sense of shame, he would resign. Then again if he had a shred of those he would never have tried to enter Parliament nor attempt to become Prime Minister.

Whatever else he is he is certainly not the UK’s saviour. Under his premiership we are in greater danger than ever of being driven into an abyss. I hope Conservative MPs of a reflective stamp quickly realise what a mistake they have made in acquiescing to his rise – and act accordingly.

On past form, fat chance.

Outrageous Disgrace

Did my ears deceive me?

I wasn’t listening live but I caught a news bulletin on the radio yesterday in which Attorney General Sir Geoffrey Cox MP called “this Parliament” “a disgrace.”

An Attorney General – an Attorney General, the UK’s top Legal Official (not top legal authority as this week’s events showed,) called the supreme law making body in the land a disgrace?

It appears my ears did not deceive.

As I wasn’t listening live I have no idea if the Speaker of the House admonished him for this but in my opinion he certainly ought to have.

Parliament is the bedrock of UK democracy. For anyone – but most egregiously for a person holding high office – to call it a disgrace is outrageous. Both Mr Cox and the person for whom he was fronting ie the blustering buffoon, one Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, are using unwise and dangerous language. Perhaps, even if their project manages to succeed in their terms, they ought to reflect that, in time, it may come back to haunt them. Once standards have fallen, once the language of contempt for any opposition has been embraced, it can be very difficult to restore civilised behaviour.

Messrs Cox and Johnson, be careful what you wish for.

11-0

That’s a gubbing in anyone’s terms.

Today’s Supreme Court ruling is a resounding affirmation of the supremacy of Parliament over the executive, a case I argued when the illegal prorogation was announced.

How this man (the blustering buffoon) can now remain Prime Minister is difficult to see (he’s been found to have acted unlawfully, and, by implication, lied to the Queen and hence involved her in Politics) but doubtless he’ll try.

Just imagine the meltdown in certain quarters if Jeremy Corbyn – or any Labour PM – had been found to have acted in such a way. All those present deniers of the right of the courts to comment on, or judge, the matter would be lauding a decision like this to the skies, demanding that Parliament be respected and calling for that PM’s resignation. (I suspect, if he or she then failed to do so their reaction would go even further, calls for arrest at the very least.)

So Boris Johnson has now been exposed as, in effect, a criminal. He won’t do the decent thing, though. All his life he has been shielded from the consequences of his actions, either by his Daddy’s money or the complicity and indulgence of those around him (Daily Telegraph I’m looking at you.) As a result he thought he could get away with anything and obviously felt he was above the law. Judging by his response to the judgement in a TV interview given in New York today he still doesn’t think he’s done anything to be ashamed of. But then shame is beyond him.

As soon as this apology for a PM (my apologies to apologies for comparing him to them) disappears from public life the better it will be for us all.

Nothing will have been resolved, but at least we may get someone who cares for the institutions of government to replace him.

Constitutional Coup d’État?

Well.

Don’t we live in interesting times?

I had been planning a post about the demise of Bury FC. (OK they’re not dead quite yet but it does seem inevitable.)

But our new Prime Minister’s decision to ask the Queen to prorogue Parliament – a request she cannot refuse even though it places her firmly in the political spotlight, a situation she ought not be subjected to – in the midst of the biggest crisis to hit British politics in my lifetime (I was alive during the Suez debacle – only just – but that wasn’t anything like as bad as this) beggars belief.

Parliament has not been sitting for weeks due to the summer recess. The blustering buffoon has been subject to its scrutiny for only a day or so after replacing Theresa May. Yet now – if his plan cannot be thwarted – there will only be opportunity to do so for less than a week before it will be prevented from operating for another five weeks beyond that. And this at the most dangerous time for the prospects of the UK since 1940.

If this is democracy then what on Earth does dictatorship look like?

The Leave campaign in the EU Referendum employed the slogan, “Take Back Control.” If that meant anything it could only mean bringing power back to Parliament, not to the Prime Minister – nor to a small, rabid clique of ultras. It has always been the case that a Prime Minister can only do what Parliament allows him or her to do. A restriction of Parliament’s rights to hold him or her to account is a denial of control, a denial of democracy. If leave voters see Parliament as the problem here then they can not be described as democrats, either that or they misunderstand the UK system of government. (And constitutionally, the last General Election (elected 2017) overrode any previous votes – on anything – as no Parliament can bind its successor. Technically the EU referendum was a creature of the previous Parliament (elected 2015) rather than this one.)

The English Parliament – of which Brexiteers, I suspect, tend to see the present UK one as being a continuation (though in that they are wrong) – once fought a war against a King who stood in the way of its rights, precisely for the point of ensuring those rights. (The fact that the succeeding dispensation under the Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell, also ran roughshod over the same Parliament’s rights shows how fragile those rights can be.)

It is the duty of Parliament to scrutinise proposed Government measures or intentions and if a majority in Parliament does not like them then to vote them down. A Prime Minister who seeks to deny it that right, for however long or short a time, can not be called a democrat – and is a danger to us all.

Afternoon of the Long Knives

So, as everyone expected it’s the blustering buffoon. Perhaps I ought to capitalise that.

The Conservative (and Unionist) Party has now given us three terrible Prime Ministers in a row. It’s hard to say which is worst though I suspect BoJo – as he’s called – will be the one. I believe our USian friends have a better word to describe him – bozo. He may have been to Eton and Balliol but he shows no sign of ever having learned much.

God help us.

It’s not taken him long to get the knives out for those who opposed him.

I’m reminded of Harold MacMillan’s cabinet reshuffle of 1962 (except this clear out is more extensive and MacMillan had been Prime Minister for a while.) MacMillan only got rid of one-third of his previous cabinet. It still led to the reshuffle being dubbed Night of the Long Knives in a rather distasteful reference to the bloody purge of previously high ranking Nazis in Germany in 1934.

MacMillan’s actions led his successor as PM, Harold Wilson, in a much later exchange in the House of Commons to recollect the time when the “then Prime Minister sacked half his cabinet”, adding, “the wrong half, as it turned out.”

Plenty ammunition here for the Blustering Buffoon’s successor I’d have thought.

A Dismal Choice

The two remaining candidates to be the leader of the Conservative Party and hence the next Prime Minister of the UK show just how the calibre of the country’s politicians – along with the standards of its politics – has fallen.

The choice lies between a blustering buffoon and a piece of rhyming slang.

My comment on the present incumbent when she triggered Article 50 has come true in spades. These are dangerous men.

The buffoon showed himself to be totally unfit for high office in his time as Foreign Secretary when his failure to master any detail of her case led to Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe being all but confirmed in the eyes of Iran as being in effect a spy, or, at least, working against its government.

The rhyming slang, when Secretary of State for Health, was so inept in the post he managed to unite the almost the entire medical profession against him. And have you seen his eyes?

If either of these two is the answer, what on Earth is the question?

On a related point I’ve seen it suggested that if the buffoon does become PM then it is possible he may appoint T Ronald Dump’s pal (well he likes to think T Ronald is his pal) Nigel Farage as UK ambassador to the US.

Great. Just do it Boris. At least it will get Farage and his poisonous rantings out of this country for a while.

Apparently Jorge Luis Borges characterised the War of Thatcher’s Face as a fight between two bald men over a comb.

The contest between Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson and Jeremy Richard Streynsham Hunt (don’t their full names just tell you all you need to know about them?) is more like two blind men scrabbling over a hearing aid. Neither can or will do much good with it once they’ve got it.

Independence by Alasdair Gray

An Argument for Home Rule.

Canongate, 2014, 130 p.

(This was published in 2014 in the run-up to the Scottish Independence Referendum as a companion piece to Gray’s earlier book Why Scots Should Rule Scotland. I bought it a year or so ago in a second-hand bookshop and took it along on our recent Baltic Cruise.)

 Independence cover

There are many differences between Scotland and the more southerly parts of the British Isles. The geology differs between Scotland and England and land usage is more problematic – one of the factors which led to the Romans withdrawing from what they called Caledonia to behind Hadrian’s Wall. Different attitudes to education (deriving from a desire in mediæval England to keep the lower orders in their place, whereas the Scots valued an educated populace especially after the Reformation in order that the people could read the Bible for themselves) persist to this day. Gray says, “When writer in residence at Glasgow University I was amused when a lecturer in English from Oxford or Cambridge told me, ‘It is amazing that someone of your background knows as much about literature as we do.’ Many Scots friends thought my learning considerable; none thought it strange I had it.” The prospect of a generally poorer standard of living due to agricultural factors led many Scots with a good education to venture abroad.

This book is not an argument that only “indigenous” Scots ought to be allowed to have positions of influence here. Gray is clear about the difference between what he calls settlers who wish to make their lives in Scotland and colonists who will sweep in (and out again) in order to promote their careers. He gives examples. Glasgow European Capital of Culture hired English administrators who did not organise any festivals or exhibitions featuring local or even Scottish authors or artists since they were mostly ignorant of anything good that had been made here. At least two such appointees announced they knew little about Scottish culture but “looked forward to learning about it.” Any such ignorance of English culture on the part of a Scottish administrator wishing to work in England would be laughable – and is difficult to imagine. Nor does Gray ignore the fact that many Scots did very well indeed out of the British Empire.

There is the occasional further barb, “one of those who were then reviled as middle men, and since Thatcher’s time have been praised as entrepeneurs“.

Gray’s argument is well set out but I doubt, in these times, it would convince any who are of an opposite persuasion.

Pedant’s corner:- CO2 (CO2.) “The warlike Irish kings left these monks in to promote their religion in peace” (no [first] “in”; or else, “left these monks in peace to practice their religion,”) Charles’ (Charles’s,) the Scots parliament accepted it and were denounced” (the Scots Parliament accepted it and was denounced,) Burns’ (Burns’s.) “The Jacobite invasion of England by a mainly Highland force, which hoped to succeed with English support, but finding they retreated back to Scotland” (but finding none they retreated.)

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