22 June 2017


The Times attends the state opening of parliament:
This may have been a depomped ceremony but everything is relative. Yeomen with bouncing plumes still marched along the Royal Gallery; there was parping brass at the monarch’s arrival; and the leader of the Lords carried forth on a stick the Cap of Maintenance (not to be confused with George Osborne’s Hi-Vis Jacket of Construction). Up in the gallery we reached for our Biros of Whimsy to scribble upon the Notepads of Irreverence.
The crown, too heavy for the Queen on such a hot day, had been sent ahead in a separate car and was sitting there on a cushion. The royal head was instead covered with what appeared to be the flag of the European Union: a blue floral number with a circle of yellow dots. You can take the girl out of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha but . . .

It is time that we got rid of all the nonsense: gold sticks in waitng, ladies of the bedchamber. Lord Maltravers Poursuivant and all.


20 June 2017

So far, not so good ...

I rather doubt if this sort of language in The Guardian is justified:
British negotiators have capitulated to key European demands for a phased approach to Brexit talks, agreeing to park discussions on free trade until they have thrashed out the cost of the multibillion-euro UK divorce settlement.
Putting a brave face on a concession that may further strengthen the tactical dominance of the EU, the Brexit secretary, David Davis, insisted his initial retreat remained consistent with long-term government strategy.
To desribe a tactical reverse as capitulation verges on hyperbole.  If Davis has his wits about him (which I accept is sometimes doubtful), he will know that all the issues are interlinked.  It is thus impossible to come to an agreement on the divorce bill without reference to future payments associated with membership of the single market; nor can the position of EU nationals in the UK be separated from the question of the movement of labour from the EU post-Brexit.  And over all hangs the question of the future jurisdiction of the ECJ.


17 June 2017

The lads done good!

Terrific stuff.  Scotland beat Australia by 24 points to 19.  Outstanding team effort, but Fiin Russell and Johnny Gray immense.

Wayne Barnes and his determination to be the centre of attention is a pain in the arse.


15 June 2017

Quote of the day

From The Guardian (here):
Leadership requires courage, imagination and empathy. In the two long days since the first flames licked up the newly fixed cladding on Grenfell Tower in west London, the prime minister has failed to show any of these qualities. On Wednesday, the first day, she said nothing at all until 6.30 that evening. On Thursday morning she ventured out to the scene of the disaster, where she rightly congratulated the emergency services on their inexhaustible efforts. But she made no contact with the shattered survivors, nor the faith workers and volunteers who have poured in to the area with such compassion. Less than an hour later Jeremy Corbyn arrived. He listened to people, he hugged them, he promised to find out the truth and told them he would speak for them. Theresa May could have said and done all of those things, but she did not.


14 June 2017

Finkelstein's logic

The Times explains why we are up a gum tree:
To understand the nature of the position we are in, there are two things that need to be appreciated.
The first is that Theresa May does not want the so-called hard Brexit that is associated with her. If we crashed out of the European Union without a deal, it would represent failure to her. The reason she says that “no deal is better than a bad deal” is because she wants a deal. Her attitude is that, just as there is no point paying for Trident and then saying you would never use it, you should not unilaterally disarm before talks.
It was because she believed it would be a bumpy ride on the way to a negotiated settlement that she needed a proper majority in parliament. Without one, brinkmanship with negotiating partners would not be credible. And she felt she did not have one.
Now she certainly does not. Indeed, it’s far worse than that: she would be attempting to persuade the EU to agree a deal that they would be able to see would not get through parliament.
The main reason it would not is that Labour has designed its position to allow it to vote down virtually everything. Its stance is a classic of opposition policy-making. Labour insists any deal must deliver leaving the single market while guaranteeing all the benefits of the single market; it must put jobs first, protect workers’ rights and end free movement. Without a deal like this they would not be in favour of leaving — but they want to emphasise that they are indeed in favour of leaving.
There is basically nothing remotely achievable that they can’t oppose. You can call this shrewd, pragmatic, muddled, infuriating, understandable, irresponsible, reasonable in the circumstances — you can call it what you like. It is what it is.

Which leaves us up the creek without a paddle.  Cameron with his referendum has a lot to answer for ...

13 June 2017

The Laurel & Hardy strategy

The Times reports:

Theresa May bought a stay of execution as prime minister and Tory leader yesterday with a display of contrition before MPs, declaring: “I’m the person who got us into this mess and I’m the one who will get us out of it”.

Don't hold your breath ...

12 June 2017

Quote of the day

From The Times Red Box:

Good morning,

I don't like to worry you but overnight Theresa May again promised to bring stability. Who knows what forces of chaos this will unleash.

Judging by the prime minister's track record, by the end of the day the lights will have gone off, the Queen will have abdicated, and we will find ourselves at war with Narnia.

I plan to retire to the Second World War air-raid shelter we have in the garden. I may be some time.

And so, even the Tory press is mocking the Dear Leader.

It's a bit of a mess

Whither Brexit now ...   The Guardian reports:
Britain’s EU partners were left baffled by the result of the general election, and no wonder. The Conservatives campaigned for the right to strike a hard bargain and failed to get it. The Liberal Democrats campaigned for a second referendum and failed to get that either. Labour perhaps best captured the confused mood of the voters by insisting that while the result of the referendum should be honoured, the aim should be to continued membership of the single market. Some voters want a clean break. Some voters want Brexit in name only. Some voters want to have their cake and eat it.
Difficult to see a path leading to a satisfactory conclusion to the Brexit negotiations, whatever you deem that satisfactory conclusion to be.

The present government's objectives in the negotiations (exit from the single market and from the customs union) may have changed; on the other hand, thay may remain the same.  And the government will struggle to remain in office to fulfil whatever objectives they set themselves.

I would refer you to the wise words of Sir Richard Mottram, former permanent secretary at the DETR:


09 June 2017

Quote of the day

Politico reports:
White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said “the president is not a liar” after former FBI director James Comey blasted the White House for telling “lies, plain and simple” about the circumstances surrounding his firing last month.
Then why are his pants on fire? 


08 June 2017

Interesting ...

Watching the BBC coverage of election night.  Dimbleby and the rest of them seemed to have missed the fact that a hung parliament might just - possibly - hand to Jeremy Corbyn the keys to 10 Downing Street'

OK, it's a stretch, but it is far from impossible that the Tories will fail to command sufficient support in the Commons.

Which would really be a turn-up for the books.

07 June 2017

Quote of the day

From Bloomberg (here):
For a few hours on Sunday, Ariana Grande, a 23-year-old pop star from Boca Raton, Florida, was the leader of the free world. ...
Two weeks after 22 people were killed and more than 60 injured in a terrorist attack at her "Dangerous Woman" concert in Manchester in the U.K., Grande returned to the city to hallow the ground and soothe the survivors. In the process, she rededicated her generation to the proposition that all men -- and women, most definitely women -- are created equal.
While President Donald Trump gutter-tweeted argle-bargle and played another round of golf, Grande delivered what will likely stand as the official American response to the bombing in Manchester and to another terrorist attack, the night before the concert, in London.
Trump's White House is as culturally barren as it is politically toxic. Given a president who spreads division at home and abroad, it's especially important to have visible counterpoints in politics, sports, business and the arts. At a crucial hour, the pint-sized Grande showed that America is still big. It's the White House that's gotten small.


Where does this lead ...

May is sounding tough:
Theresa May has declared she is prepared to rip up human rights laws to impose new restrictions on terror suspects, as she sought to gain control over the security agenda just 36 hours before the polls open.
The prime minister said she was looking at how to make it easier to deport foreign terror suspects and how to increase controls on extremists where it is thought they present a threat but there is not enough evidence to prosecute them.
The last-ditch intervention comes after days of pressure on May over the policing cuts and questions over intelligence failures, following terror attacks on London Bridge
She said: “But I can tell you a few of the things I mean by that: I mean longer prison sentences for people convicted of terrorist offences. I mean making it easier for the authorities to deport foreign terror suspects to their own countries.
“And I mean doing more to restrict the freedom and the movements of terrorist suspects when we have enough evidence to know they present a threat, but not enough evidence to prosecute them in full in court.
“And if human rights laws stop us from doing it, we will change those laws so we can do it.”
Human rights legislation is there to protect the public from an overweening government.  The kind of government that says it is entitled to take legal action against individuals because it thinks those individuals may be dangerous, without having to prove its case in court.  So the government can lock up or penalise anyone it chooses.  Throughout the centuries, the dream of totalitarians.

And it is wholly unlikely to discourage malcontents from using vehicles or knives to injure innocent bystanders.


06 June 2017

Return of the Maybot

The Guardian continues to poke fun at the Prime Minister:
The Supreme Leader had never been more clear about anything. The country was talking about one thing and one thing only. Brexit. So she had come to the same library in the Royal United Services Institute in Whitehall where she had launched her leadership campaign almost a year earlier, to talk about Brexit. That’s what the public was demanding and that’s what the public would get.
There were a few puzzled faces in the audience. They were under the impression that what most people had been talking about over the past couple of days was Saturday night’s terrorist attack in London and they had reasonably assumed that the Supreme Leader might have something to say about it. Apparently not. “More than ever, the country needs strong and stable leadership,” she said. And that was why she was calling on everyone to strengthen her hand so her leadership could be even stronger and more stable. The Maybot was back up and running.
Mistaking the groans of resignation and despair in the room for confirmation that her message of reassurance was getting through, the Supreme Leader went on to deliver much the same non-speech she had repeatedly given over the previous seven weeks. The same sentences that never quite made sense even on their own. Let alone when they were connected to all the others.
She alone had a Brexit plan. A plan she couldn’t fully disclose, other than to say no deal was better than a bad deal. Jeremy Corbyn didn’t have a plan because his plan was different to hers. “We will show leadership, because that is what leaders do,” the Maybot concluded, her algorithms no longer fully operational. “There is no time for learning on the job.” This was the closest she came to saying anything heartfelt. She’d been trying and failing to learn on the job for 12 months.
She is making Corbyn look better and better.

05 June 2017

A knave or a fool

Either Trump knowingly misconstrued Mayor Khan's statement or he failed to understand it:
Donald Trump has criticised the mayor of London, hours after seven people were killed and 48 injured in a terror attack in the centre of the city.
“At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack,” the president wrote on his personal Twitter account, “and Mayor of London says there is ‘no reason to be alarmed!’
In response, a spokesman for Sadiq Khan said the mayor had “more important things to do than respond to Donald Trump’s ill-informed tweet that deliberately takes out of context his remarks”.
Khan commented on the attacks in a statement overnight and in a television interview earlier on Sunday. In the interview, he said there was “no reason to be alarmed” by an increased and armed police presence in the city that day.
 Either way, Trump is a disgrace.


31 May 2017

Silly old buffer

I'm not old - I'm a not so active adult?  The Guardian reports:
People should not be called old until they are seriously frail, dependent and approaching death, one of the UK’s leading social scientists has told Hay festival.
Sarah Harper, a gerontologist who is director of the Oxford Institute of Ageing, proposed a different approach to the language we use about ageing, suggesting that people in their 60s and possibly 70s and 80s should still be considered active adults.
“We should not even be calling people old until they reach what [the historian Peter] Laslett calls the fourth age; that time where we will become frail and enfeebled,” Harper said. “Old age should be the fourth age. Everything else should be active adulthood.”
She said there was a danger of neglecting what true old age should be: a time of withdrawal and peace and reflection. It can be a difficult time but “it is a time we need to claim as a special time because we are finite beings … we will die”.
I rather doubt that we wrinklies give two hoots as to the label used to describe us.  But a little more care and consideration on the part of younger members of society would not go amiss.


27 May 2017

Quote of the day

From The Guardian (here):
Two weeks ago, when the Supreme Leader informed the country there was a realistic chance of Jeremy Corbyn becoming prime minister, everyone dismissed the idea as scaremongering. It now turns out she was acting on insider information.
Only she knew just how mediocre she really was and that her mediocrity would be inevitably found out. Only she knew that she was planning to release a totally uncosted manifesto with policies that would have to be ditched before the election even took place. Only she knew that she was strong and stable enough to turn a 24 point lead in the polls into a mere five.
As John Cleese once said, " 'It's not the despair.... I can take the despair. It's the hope I can't stand".


23 May 2017

Quote of the day

From The Times (here):
Mrs May repeated her mantra to Andrew Neil last night that the election comes down to whether she or Jeremy Corbyn should negotiate a Brexit deal with the EU. It remains a fairly strong line, although that is like saying that Victoria Beckham would be a better replacement No 8 for the Lions rugby squad in New Zealand than Nicholas Parsons.


Election poster of the day

More here


22 May 2017

Not so strong and stable?

The BBC comments on Mrs May's latest u-turn, modifying the proposals for social care in England:
Suddenly, only four days after the Tory manifesto was published, Theresa May has added one rather crucial proposal to her social care plan - a limit or a cap to the amount of money one individual could be asked to pay.
She is adamant that she is not budging on her principles, and was clearly irritated by questions after her speech that said she was backtracking.
But the manifesto did not include the notion of a cap, and just yesterday ministers publicly rejected such an idea.
One senior minister told me "we always knew we were going to need to give protection to those with very high care costs".
They said the prime minister sees trying to fix the social care system "as a big, big deal and she is prepared to use political capital to do it".
But having to clarify the manifesto within days creates a whiff of panic.
And I rather doubt that the addition of an unspecified cap will go very far towards appeasing those opposed to the plan.  Further concessions on the way?

This is what happens when party leaders do not think things through and do not adequately consult their colleagues.  It might be described as a failure of leadership ...


21 May 2017

Music of the week

Paranoia of the day

From The Sunday Times (here):
Even the election date has it in for Labour. A change.org petition is demanding the month of May be renamed “Corbyn”. The petitioner rages: “We want a calendar for the many, not the few. The insidious presence of May on our kitchen walls and calendar apps is a clear, unfair advantage to the Conservatives”. 
They may (hah, again) not have noticed that the election date is in June?


20 May 2017

A born diplomat

President Trump takes his usual sophisticated dialogue into conversation with the Russians.  The Times reports:
President Trump told the Russian foreign minister that he was relieved to have sacked his FBI director and allegedly described him as “a nut job”.
Barely an hour after Mr Trump had departed Washington for his first foreign trip yesterday, it emerged that the president had used an Oval Office meeting with Sergey Lavrov to explain his decision to dismiss James Comey the previous evening.
According to a document that summarised the meeting, Mr Trump told Mr Lavrov: “I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job”.
The Talleyrand de nos jours, he is not ...


19 May 2017

Quote of the day

And after the Manifesto Launch:
Forward together, the Supreme Leader left alone in her five-car motorcade. The cabinet were left to fend for themselves in the broken down bus.


Aw diddums ...

Infamy, they've all got it infamy.  The Independent reports:
Donald Trump has said that “no politician in history...has been treated worse or more unfairly” than him.

“Look at the way I’ve been treated lately, especially by the media,” the US President told cadets graduating from the US Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut.

“No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly. "
Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, think I'll go and eat worms ...