30 June 2017

Quote of the day

From The Guardian (here):
Yeah, but no, but maybe yeah eventually, but no right now. To paraphrase Little Britain’s gormless teenager Vicky Pollard, that’s roughly where the government stands, at the time of writing, on whether public sector workers are going to get a decent pay rise. Although by the time you read this, who knows?
Hours after suggesting on Wednesday that “we understand people are weary” of austerity and that the cap on public sector pay might thus be lifted, Downing Street was backtracking, squeaking furiously that actually nothing had changed. Yet all the time, Tory MPs were getting fat hints that, so long as they voted down a Labour amendment to the Queen’s speech which called for the scrapping of the cap right now, something might well be worked out come the autumn budget.
Officially no, but maybe yeah before too long. And if Westminster is struggling to work out what all this actually means, God alone knows how teachers and doctors and police officers, and the firefighters so recently lionised for risking their lives in Grenfell Tower, are supposed to make sense of it.
This Tory Government does not appear to realise that the political games they play affect people's lives.


She made a difference

Well done to Stella Creasy for demonstrating that politics matter.  The Guardian reports:
A decades-long struggle to give Northern Irish women access to terminations on the NHS in mainland Britain was unexpectedly won in the space of 24 hours on Thursday, as the UK government dramatically changed its policy in an attempt to head off a damaging Tory rebellion on the Queen’s speech.
Dozens of Conservative MPs were understood to have expressed to Tory whips their support for an amendment by the Labour MP Stella Creasy to allow Northern Irish women access to NHS-funded abortions in Great Britain. 
Women from Northern Ireland are currently charged about £900 for a termination if they travel to have the procedure in mainland Britain, a policy upheld by a supreme court case earlier this month. Northern Ireland has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe and it is almost impossible for a women to have a safe, legal abortion there.

29 June 2017

Like ferrets in a sack

Rudderless.  The Guardian reports:
Government hints at a possible end to the cap on pay rises for public sector workers have descended into utter confusion after Downing Street rapidly changed tack, insisting that the policy of limiting annual rises to 1% would remain in place.
Hours after a senior Conservative source indicated that ministers would review the cap at the next budget, saying people were “weary” after years of belt-tightening, Theresa May’s spokesman said this was not the case. “The government policy has not changed,” he told a No 10 briefing, repeating the phrase or variants of it 16 times as he was pressed on how this could tally with the earlier comments.
Not waving but drowning.

Down the pan.


28 June 2017

Quote of the day

From The Red Box:
When the Tory attack on Labour is that its Brexit policy is not clear, it would help if the government position wasn't also mired in confusion.
David Davis, the Brexit secretary, came to The Times CEO Summit and said Philip Hammond, the chancellor, says "a number of things that are not quite consistent with each other". Hammond, meanwhile, went to Germany and gave a speech mocking Boris Johnson's claim that Brexit would allow Britain to "have our cake and eat it". 
There are also splits on how long a transition deal might last, what new customs arrangements might look like and the speed with which new free-trade deals could be struck. Thank goodness these people aren't running the country or anything.
Indeed ...


24 June 2017

Music of the week

I don't know what the world is coming to ...

Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper at Glastonbury:

"Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel."

Cabinet Ministers can be pretty stupid.  The Independent reports:
Calls by a Cabinet minister for broadcasters to be "patriotic" over Brexit have been branded "sinister" by Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron.
Leader of the Commons Andrea Leadsom drew fire after making the remarks in a heated TV clash.
"It would be helpful if broadcasters were willing to be a bit patriotic," she told BBC Newsnight. "The country took a decision, this Government is determined to deliver on that decision."

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.