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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.)

Worst Prime Minister

So the tenure of one of the two worst Prime Ministers the UK has ever had is almost over.

(I wasn’t, by the way, convinced by the crack in Mrs May’s voice at the end of her resignation speech. The tone behind it was too like the one she was wont to use in order to indicate resolve and which to me always seemed more like outright refusal to take any notice of alternative viewpoints.)

That the two politicians who hold the (lack of) distinction implied by my first paragraph happened to follow one after the other is merely a reflection of what a state the UK has fallen into.

Not that their position in that top two is secure. As I suggested here, Theresa May’s successor is likely to be even more of a disaster.

O tempora! O mores!

Same Planet?

Not for the first time Ruth Davidson has come to my attention. I have previously noted her resemblance to Benito Mussolini.

It struck me a while ago that she is largely responsible for the present mess that the UK Parliament has got itself into over Brexit. At the last general election – one in which the UK’s future relationship with the EU was the most important issue facing the country – her campaign consisted solely of insisting that the Scottish electorate reject any more unneccesary elections in the form of a second Scottish independence referendum. (The irony that that general election was itself totally unnecessary in that Theresa May had a perfectly workable majority and no need to bother the electorate seems to have been lost on Ms Davidson.)

The upshot, however, was that the number of Scottish Conservative MPs increased from its previous derisory level to 13. Given that Mrs May managed to lose Tory MPs in the rest of the UK this was something of a triumph for Ms Davidson. However its consequence was that rather than Theresa May losing power those 13 Tory MPs gave her an outside shot at a Parliamentary majority, with DUP help.

The outcome we all know. The Westminster Parliament has been unable to come to any agreement on what the future relations between the UK and the EU ought to be and all is chaos. Without those 13 Scottish Tory MPs there may well have been a different Government – under a different Prime Minister – and an orderly withdrawal from the EU might have been cobbled together. British politics would not then be in its present parlous state. And we have what is arguably another “unnecessary” election.

Yet, what lay in my post on my arrival back from holiday? (A holiday I might add in which my visits to Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Finland and Sweden showed a degree of civic engagement with the elections to the European Parliament sadly not in evidence in the UK in previous years to this – and given the lack of posters on lampposts round my area in this year too. A coincidental mayoral election in Rostock might have added to the interest there, though.)

Well there was a Scottish Tory European election leaflet barely mentioning Europe (if at all) but pleading for votes so as to forestall a further Scottish independence referendum. Ms Davidson it seems has only one tune. Her cupboard is bare. If it weren’t for the prospect of another independence referendum what on Earth would she campaign on? She has nothing to say on any other subject.

Since she has seemingly learned nothing and has forgotten nothing perhaps Ms Davidson is a Bourbon rather than a Mussolini.

A Democrat?

What can you say about a Prime Minister of the United Kingdom who derides Parliament? Who blames MPs for her failure to secure her desired legislation?

It is as if she thinks she is a dictator and that what she says must go. The tenor of her speeches – and her facial gestures – is exactly that of someone who does not tolerate dissent. Trying to suggest Parliament is against the “people” is a dangerous course. I have already suggested that May would be a dangerous PM but even I did not expect such an outrageous comment to come from the mouth of a British PM.

She has already shown many times she is unfit for high office – too rigid, too blinkered, among other things – but if anything proves it, that assertion does.

For that is not the system in which she works. Parliament is not there to do the Prime Minister’s bidding. MPs are not delegates bound to do what they are told. They are representatives, there to exercise their own judgement on the legislation put in front of them. Certainly, they are elected on a broad basis to support the policies of the party under which they presented themselves to their electors but not slavishly to troop through the voting lobbies like sheep.

They have a duty to assess whether any projected law is in the country’s interest and to vote accordingly. It follows that only those laws to which Parliament consents can be enacted. If Parliament does not give its consent the proposed law does not pass – no matter the Prime Minister’s wishes.

Theresa May’s statement that, “It’s a matter of personal regret to me,” that Brexit hasn’t been delivered yet irresistibly reminded me of Neville Chamberlain in his speech on the radio in September 1939 announcing that war with Germany had begun. “You can imagine what a bitter blow it is to me that all my long struggle to win peace has failed.”

Theresa May is not a martyr to MPs. She is the victim of her own folly. Her flagship policy has been defeated in Parliament – twice, by historic margins each time – and yet she still ploughs on banging her head against the brick wall of that same hung Parliament which only came into being because of her hubris in assuming all she had to do was call an election and then bask in the adulation of an adoring public and a landslide victory. Not the first, nor last, of her mistakes. And it left her held hostage to the extreme right wing of her party and to the provisional wing of the Old Testament in the shape of the Democratic Unionist Party.

What has to happen in order for this woman to recognise reality? That her time as PM has been a disaster, that she has brought about chaos, and harmed the country in the process. And for what? To keep the Tory Party together? It looks like that’s working well.

People in Britain used to make jokes about banana republics. That’s a bit out of date these days.

Except for the fact we don’t grow any we’re now the butt of any such joke. A banana monarchy.

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