Teresa May’s Christian Democracy

 Teresa May’s Conference Address

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The Prime Minister gave the final address at the Conference which can be seen on line courtesy of the Conservative Home blog:  “WATCH: Theresa May’s speech to the Conservative Party Conference – in full”.

Mrs May’s address was very much an expression of “One Nation” Conservatism but it was also more than that:  It was also an expression of the tenets of Christian Democracy.

It’s a long time since we have heard a speech like this at a party conference and it bodes well for the country in many respects.

The Telegraph has this by Tim Stanley: “Theresa May has closed the liberal era. Bring on Christian democracy” in which he speaks of the essence of the Teresa May approach:

Cameron thought One Nation politics meant being nice to gay people while cutting benefits. This, I’m afraid, is the cold hearted logic of contemporary metropolitan liberalism – it leaves people to their own devices, sink or swim. May, by contrast, has a provincial, WI, prayer book, round table, civic conservatism that is parochial but also instinctively compassionate.”

With every respect to Mr Stanley, one needs to understand the real meaning of Christian Democracy and this Wikipedia entry may be of help.   The principles originate in the teaching of St Thomas Aquinas and are expounded in a whole series of  papal encyclicals beginning with the 1891 Rerum novarum  encyclical of Pope Leo XIII (which condemned the misery of workers suffering unbridled exploitation) followed by Quadragesimo anno, by Pope Pius XI in 1931, Populorum progressio by Pope Paul VI in 1967, Centesimus annus, by Pope John Paul II in 1991, and Caritas in veritate by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009.

The principles expounded in those texts have been adopted by other branches of Christianity and by people of other faiths. Anglo Catholics, particularly those who,  like Mrs May’s father, trained for their ministry at Mirfield College with the Community of the Resurrection,  generally consider that the principles of Christian Democracy are an essential part of good government. They are about the state ensuring that all the actors in civil society act fairly, the one to the other.

There was once much in common between “One Nation Conservatism” and the concept of Christian Democracy.

The disconnect between the two  began with the rise of the “greed is good” policies so beloved of Reagan in the USA and, sadly,  of Baroness Thatcher in the UK which brought about the deregulation of business, the progressive dismantling of the welfare state, the privatisation of nationalised industries and the diminishing of the trade unions in order to reduce labour costs.

To the extent that Mrs May is returning her party to “One Nation Conservatism” and  introducing respect for  principles of “Christian Democracy” that is the very best defence against both the extreme right and the extreme left.

The next months are not going to be easy.  But a return to One Nation Conservatism and to the principles of Christian Democracy make for a good start.

The Wicked Witch in Trouble?

The Wicked Witch is losing some support

ww-westminsterThe Mail on Sunday’s Political Editor reported: “Tory lead is slashed in half after tax U-turn: Bombshell Mail on Sunday poll shows May plummeting by 11 points …denting hopes of a landslide“.    Oh Dear!

The actual Survation polling questions and answers are here: “Survation’s first General Election Voting Intention poll since Theresa May’s call for a General Election gained parliamentary approval shows the Conservative Party with more than a double-digit lead over Labour.  But, as the Mail article pointed out, Professor John Curtice (who knows about these things) believes the survey still points to a net Conservative gain of some 29 seats.

The Observer had another report:  “Conservatives on course for landslide victory in election, poll suggests – Observer/Opinium survey indicates Tory party has doubled its lead over Labour to 19 points since Theresa May’s announcement“.  The conclusions were:-

  • Tories on 45% (up seven points compared with the previous week), while Labour is down three points on 26%.
  • Support is growing for the anti-Brexit Liberal Democrats, who are up four points on 11%.  Backing for the Lib Dems suggests that the party’s clear anti-Brexit strategy is appealing to hardcore Remain voters
  • There has been a dramatic fall in backing for Ukip, which is down five points to 9%, from 14% the week before.

The Financial Times has this: “Blair urges voters to back anti-Brexit candidates — even if Tory – Former Labour prime minister’s intervention enrages leftwing activists“.

The Telegraph has this:  “SNP ‘to lose 10 seats’ to Tories in major blow to Nicola Sturgeon“.  The report appears to be based on Panelbase and  Survation polls.  However, it appears that both polls predicted 2 gains for the Liberal Democrats and one poll thought there might be 3rd gain.  Apparently, the Survation poll  found backing for independence at 47 per cent, with 53 per cent opposed. However, almost 38 per cent said another Tory majority government would make them more likely to back separation.

The Scotsman has this: “Election 2017: Will the SNP sweep Glasgow again?“.  The conclusion reached is: “No matter who is selected, and no matter what happens between now and election day on June 8th, another SNP clean sweep in Glasgow seems almost inevitable“.

The Independent reports: “Brexit opposition reaches record high one week after snap election announcement – While 44 per cent agree with Brexit, the same percentage think leaving the EU would be wrong“.

Preparing for Polling Day

The BBC has this:  “General election 2017: How many people are registering to vote?” According to the report,  some 350,000 people have registered to vote since the election was announced and most of them are younger people.  Let us hope that all  voters readers – especially those who were unable to vote in the Referendum – will  be sure to register this time.  Register

This is where to do the necessary:   https://www.gov.uk/register-to-vote

Once one is registered then it is worth learning about how to vote tactically.  The Independent has this: “The spreadsheet for strategic voting against the Tories is now a website

The Website is here:  “How to Vote to Stop the Tories“.

The Witch’s ‘Special Relationship’ with Mr Toad

The Times reports:  “Trump puts EU ahead of Britain in trade queue – Merkel lands Brexit victory for Brussels“.   Oh Dear!

The so-called “special relationship” has always been an issue: – see (1) The Witch and Mr Toad  (2)  Hard Times for the Special Relationship (3) The Witch, Mr Toad and the EU .

mr-toad

It was always to be expected that Mr Toad would be more interested in the trade balances than in the “special relationship” and, as the Times article points out:  “The EU is America’s biggest trading partner: US exports to the bloc last year were worth $270 billion; it imported goods worth $417 billion. In the same period the US exported $55 billion in goods to Britain and imported $54 billion”.

The plain fact is that the survival of the “special relationship”  after the UK joined the EU depended very much on the UK continuing to have influence in Europe as one of the larger members of the European Union.

The French Connection

The Guardian has this:  “European leaders cheer Macron victory in first round of French election – Commission president breaks protocol to join chorus of congratulations for pro-European centrist, who faces far-right Marine Le Pen in second round“.

The Financial Times reports: “Euro and French stocks surge on expectation Macron beats Le Pen – Centrist’s likely success in head-to-head for French presidency eases investor nerves“.

The Telegraph has this: “Why does the French Presidential Election matter to the UK?“.

Unfortunately, is is unlikely to be a rebirth of the  1904 “Entente Cordiale”

 

The Wicked Witch calls an Election

General Election on 8th June 2017

ww-westminsterYesterday, the Wicked Witch of Westminster (aka Prime Minister Teresa May) emerged from her Downing Street hovel and announced to the media that, subject to a vote in the House of Commons tomorrow (which is required under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011),  there will be a General Election on 8th June 2017.

The Wicked Witch’s announcement may be seen on this BBC News page : “Theresa May’s general election statement in full”.

The pretext for this early general election is that the opposition parties are making life difficult for the Wicked Witch and might put her plans at risk.  In reality, a real motivation may in part be to neutralise the hard Brexit loons in her own party.

This morning the Guardian has this:  “May’s real reason for calling election? To show EU that Brexit really means Brexit – PM’s decision aims to dispel the lingering belief in Europe that Britain will change its mind about leaving the EU“.

An Election Gamble ?

Paul Goodman writing on the Conservative Home blog as soon as the decision was announced, set out what he considers to the the “pros” and the “cons”:  “The Prime Minister’s election gamble. The pros. The cons.”  Some of the considerations – especially the “cons” – are well worth further study.   To begin, these three considerations do seem relevant:-

  • The Conservatives have just notched up their biggest poll lead over Labour.  If not now – as Charles Walker might put it – when?

It is worth noting that on 3-4 January of this year a YouGov poll had the Conservatives at 39% with Labour at 26%.  Since then the Conservative lead has crept up and by 14-17 April an ICM poll had the Conservatives were leading Labour 44%-26%.  

  • A contest now means that Labour is trapped into contesting it with Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader.  That might well not be the case in 2020.

Nick Cohen wrote this in the Guardian on 19th March 2017:  “Don’t tell me you weren’t warned about Corbyn – Jeremy Corbyn is going to bury the Labour party. If you don’t want that, do something“.

Mr Cohen warned: “You should know there is a faint chance Theresa May will call an early election. She says she doesn’t want to, and it would be difficult to arrange. But May also said she didn’t want Britain to leave the European Union, and look where we are now.”

 

Corbyn – Under the Witch’s Spell ?

CorbynThe problem for Labour is, of course, that Corbyn is very much an unwitting helper of the Wicked Witch.  One does not know which spell she put on him to turn him into the gibbering idiot he has proved to be – but it seems to be holding fast. Just about everything thing Corbyn says or does is to the Wicked Witch’s advantage.   Today, Polly Toynbee writes in the Guardian: “Corbyn is rushing to embrace Labour’s annihilation – The shockingly inept opposition leader will preside over catastrophe for his party. Politics has rarely looked grimmer“.  The article is scathing about Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership but at least it recognises that the election is an opportunity for the Liberal Democrats:-

A Brexit election has Tim Farron crowing with relish, the Lib Dem’s crystal clear pro-EU stance destined, thinks Crosby [Conservative election guru], to regain 27 seats lost to Tories in 2015.”

Pundits out in force

Yesterday’s Guardian had this: “Pollsters believe general election is ‘foregone conclusion’ – Snap election gives polling industry chance to restore reputation after widespread failure to accurately predict 2015 result“.   There are, however, some passages in the piece which report caveats from Professor John Curtice – the only expert who accurately predicted the last election result – which are worth noting.

Richard Parry of the Centre for Constitutional Change writes: “So Much for Fixed Term Parliaments” and he makes these very valid points:-

  • Jeremy Corbyn’s acquiescence in an early General Election has confirmed the supposition that if pushed an opposition party would never want to appear to be frightened of going to the country. The result has been to nullify the point of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011 except when there is a coalition government.
  • At the UK level, the move is a gamble for May. It is transparently self-serving, inconsistent with previous statements and can easily be portrayed as getting the election out of the way before the bad news starts.
  • It is also a golden opportunity for the Liberal Democrats to reassert their historical strength in southern England and make progress in rolling back the Conservatives’ near clean-sweep in 2015.

Writing in the Guardian yesterday,  Anne Perkins urged MP’s to reject an early election: “This is no general election, it’s a coup – MPs have a duty to stop Theresa May – The prime minister is setting off on a course that will poison politics for a generation. But to succeed, she needs a two-thirds majority in the Commons“.

Ms Perkins may very well have been right – even though the Guardian reported that [some] Labour MP’s might have asked him to do just that very thing: “Labour MPs expected to urge Corbyn to reconsider decision to back election  – Labour leader welcomes move but many MPs are worried by his poor standing with voters and the lack of a manifesto“.

But it was never going to happen – Corbyn is still under the Wicked Witch’s spell and in a dream world of his own.  Despite the appalling state of the polls, Labour was never going to stand in the way of an early election.

The Independent had this: “Theresa May needed Labour’s support for a snap election, and she got it – even though Corbyn is heading for a bigger defeat than 1983 – If you are the Prime Minister, looking at the prospect of a massively increased majority, it’s worth the temporary awkwardness of saying you have changed your mind“.

A Liberal Democrat Opportunity

Today the Guardian reports: “New post-Brexit landscape could squeeze Labour out, warns new report – The UK in a Changing Europe called the last six months the most tumultuous political period since the second world war“.

The article suggests that the Liberal Democrats could win seats from Labour in pro-remain Constituencies such as Hornsey and Wood Green, Bristol West, Cambridge, Bermondsey and Old Southwark, and Cardiff Central.

Today, the Guardian has this: “Lib Dems hope to gain dozens of seats with anti-Brexit campaign – Party says it has been preparing for a snap election since before the EU referendum, with 400 candidates already in place“.

The article points out that “The Lib Dems have gained a net 33 council seats since the May 2016 local elections, many of them in the south-west, where Ukip has lost seven seats, Labour has lost 13 and the Tories 21“.

So it may well be the case that the Liberal Democrats do well both in the local elections and in the parliamentary elections which will follow.

 

The Wicked Witch and her Easter Message

The “Thatcher” Coin

The original £1 coin was the Sovereign.  But while these coins continue to be minted, the current worth of a real 1983 gold Sovereign is somewhere around £450 rather than its nominal worth of £1.  But by 1983, continued inflation had devalued the currency to the extent that a £1 paper banknote had £1coinbecome small change.  But  the cost of printing £1 paper money had become excessive, so in that year a new £1 coin was introduced.    The new coin received a mixed reaction from the public – but very quickly it became known as “a Thatcher” or a “Maggie”  because, like the Prime Minister of that name, “it was a bit brassy, was two faced and thought it was a sovereign” – the latter part of the explanation being a reference to a Margaret Thatcher propensity to imitate some the regal characteristics of the Queen.

Mrs Teresa May, our current Prime Minister, appears to have a similar propensity.

Theresa May Easter HatThis is a picture of Teresa May deputising for HM the Queen at a Sandhurst passing out parade on a day when Her Majesty was otherwise engaged handing out the Royal Maundy Money to pensioners at Leicester Cathedral.

Look at the hat.  Her Majesty is always very careful to ensure that her face is never obscured by her hats – and Mrs May took the same approach with her headgear at Sandhurst.

Today’s Torygraph Telegraph uses the same “quasi-Royal” photograph to support this article: “Support for Brexit hits a five-month high, with 55 per cent of UK population now backing exit from European Union“.  The photograph is, of course, wholly unconnected with the subject matter of the article.

The Sunday Express goes on to use the very same “quasi-Royal” photograph to adorn this article: “Theresa May uses Easter message to praise role of Christianity in Britain – The Prime Minister today urges the nation to “be confident” about the role Christianity plays in British life.”

Teresa May’s Christianity

There is, of course, a Christian tradition of exchanging Pascal Greetings at Easter, a feast which,  after all,  is in theological terms a more important Christian festival than Christmas.  Wikipedia has a list of the appropriate Pascal Greeting in different languages ranging from the Greek – Χριστὸς ἀνέστη! Ἀληθῶς ἀνέστη! – to the Syriac: ܡܫܝܚܐ ܩܡ! ܫܪܝܪܐܝܬ ܩܡ!‎  and including the English Christ is risen! Truly, He is risen! . 

For Catholics rather than Anglicans, there is, of course, a traditional papal address to the faithful on Easter Sunday immediately prior  to the blessing “urbi et orbi“.  The full text of this year’s address is to be found here: “Easter ‘Urbi et Orbi’ Message of Pope Francis – full text and video

However, there is no tradition of British Prime Ministers delivering an Easter Message to the people.  According to this Telegraph Article Alistair Campbell is said to have told Tony Blair  “We don’t do God” and it does not seem that Conservative Prime Ministers before David Cameron were in the habit of delivering Easter messages.

Writing on the Conservative Home blog,  Rebecca Lowe Coulson, says this: “May’s Easter message. Most people don’t go to church. But they want a Christian country“.  Frankly, that assertion ignores reality (not an uncommon approach for Conservatives like Ms Coulson).

Christians are something of an endangered species in the UK.  According to the Faith Survey,  UK church attendance has declined over the period from 1980 to 2015 from 6.48 millions to 3.08 millions which is just 5% of the population.  The British Social Attitudes Survey indicates that Anglican (i.e Church of England) affiliation is declining faster than any other religious grouping and is likely to disappear altogether by 2033.

A video and the full text of Mrs May’s so-called “Easter message” can be found here on the Downing Street part of the government web site: “Easter 2017: Theresa May’s message – In her Easter message, Prime Minister Theresa May speaks about shared values and religious freedom, and wishes everyone a very happy Easter“.

As a  Vicar’s daughter,  Mrs May is probably only too well aware that the state established Church of England is a creature of and subservient to the state  so she probably has no compunction in hijacking Christian concepts for her own political advantage.  Stephen Bush commenting on i-News wrote: “This Easter, Theresa May’s nonthreatening, bland Christianity strikes the right tone“.   But what Mr Bush writes is worth exploring a little:-

Theresa May’s Easter message made headlines because Tony Blair’s former spin doctor, Alastair Campbell, accused her of implying that God would have voted Leave. But the remarkable truth about May’s Easter message was how bland it was.

“She talked about her upbringing as the daughter of a vicar, she talked about the values that instilled in her, and she nodded to need to be “confident” in the role that Christianity plays in the lives of Britons, while also praising tolerance towards all faiths and none.”

That is to say, she played to the prejudices of the right of the Conservative Party, who see a mosque at every street corner and come close to an aneurysm every time someone wishes them “Happy Holidays”, while reassuring everyone else that she wasn’t going to start singing hymns at Prime Ministers’ Questions.

“May’s Easter message congratulates us for our history and our values – it doesn’t ask that we turn those values into actions in the future.”

In other words – Mrs May was using the occasion of Easter to further her political position on Brexit.

The best critique so far of the Wicked Witch’s address is that by Thomas G. Clark from North Yorkshire whose blog is called “Another Angry Voice“.   Read his post here: “Theresa May’s Easter message is delusional nonsense” and it concludes with this observation:-

ww-westminsterSo we have a ridiculously out-of-touch Prime Minister talking about unity when the UK is so divided it’s in imminent danger of actually splitting up, demanding that we all get behind an economically ruinous Brexit that only a minority of people actually voted for, administered by a Tory government that an even smaller minority of people voted for, led by an appointed Prime Minister that nobody voted for.  The weird thing is that some people actually accept this horrendously delusional gibberish at face value.”

Writing in the New European, Richard Porrit has this: “Deluded: May again claims whole country is uniting behind Brexit“.

The Guardian has this:  “What Brexit should have taught us about voter manipulation – The EU referendum was won by the side with the means to distribute the most plausible lies through social media“.

Finally, the Financial Times has this by Nick Clegg: “Theresa May’s Brexit stance has not softened but now it must – The prime minister if bold could salvage something in the talks“.

Although Mr Clegg is unquestionably right – one cannot be hopeful that common sense will prevail in Downing Street.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and we have just suffered the Wicked Witch’s attempt to do just that – delivering an “Easter Message” to the profanum vulgus.

Coming together to defeat Brexit

The G-7 – a  lesson on the consequences of Brexit

Boris3It was to be expected.  The Telegraph has this: “Boris Johnson fails to secure backing of the G7 nations for swift sanctions against Russia and Syria“.   But it is good to see that the Telegraph also has this piece: “Boris Johnson ‘not to blame’ for failed Russia sanctions at the G7, former foreign minister says“.  As the articles make clear, Germany, Italy  and the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs all rejected the proposals of Clown Boris.

The fact is that EU Member States always seek to have a united position before participating in wider meetings such as the G-7.  That’s is encouraged by the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs.  Formerly, by virtue of the “special relationship” with the USA, a British Foreign Secretary had considerable influence in the development of any EU foreign policy stance.

Now, by reason of the Brexit notification, the UK is no longer an insider in the EU looking out, but an off-shore outsider looking in.

Mrs May had wished to continue to play a central role in EU affairs until the UK ceased to be a Member state, but at her first EU summit last October she was told in no uncertain terms that this would not be possible – see: “May: UK will remain at centre of EU decision-making until Brexit – Prime minister angers European leaders at first EU summit by saying Britain wants to maintain central role until it leaves“.

The Wicked Witch and her Clown Boris

ww-westminsterThere are some stories about the relationship between the Prime Minister and her Foreign Secretary.  The Guardian’s Martin Kettle writes this:  “Boris Johnson is largely toothless. And that’s just how Theresa May likes it“.  Mr Kettle makes these points:

  • British foreign secretaries are not in charge of British foreign policy. British prime ministers are their own foreign secretaries now, and have been since at least Margaret Thatcher’s time.
  • There remain big differences between the prime minister, who is conscientious and hardworking to a fault, and her foreign secretary, who has a record of being lazy and winging it
  • The main reason why May is happy with Johnson being where he is concerns domestic politics. The permanently ambitious Johnson remains May’s chief potential rival.  With Brexit now beginning to take shape, she wants him in the government tent, not outside it.

The Independent’s John Rentoul has a similar piece: “Is Boris Johnson’s blunder proof that he’s a political court jester, or a sign that he knows he will never be PM?“:-

  • The Foreign Secretary is the second-most popular politician in Britain, overtaken only, when she became Prime Minister, by Theresa May herself.
  • Johnson has been unsackable for the past nine months, as the most important member of the Brexit ring of steel around the PM in the Cabinet. Now that May has invoked Article 50, however, she does not need her human shield so much, although it would still be damaging to her to lose him.

Interestingly, Paul Goodman writes on the Conservative Home website: “May has Johnson exactly where she wants him” – and this may well be a correct assessment.

The Guardian has this: “Boris Johnson is a liability for Britain, says John McDonnell – Shadow chancellor says foreign secretary’s ‘poor judgment’ undermines UK credibility, adding that even cabinet has no confidence in him“.

This article is a bad case of the pot calling the kettle black

Any list of the people undermining the UK’s credibility should have the Leader of the Labour Party right at the top of the list.

The Independent  carries this piece by Chuka Umunna MP, Labour’s Shadow Business Secretary:  “Theresa May’s Brexit plan makes no sense for Britain but all the sense in the world for internal Tory politics – The Prime Minister is scared stiff of the hard right of her party – the people who campaigned for Brexit, helped destroy David Cameron, and would destroy her if she questioned their ideology“.

As his Wikipedia entry shows, Mr Umunna is a pretty high-powered guy.  An example of his ability is that he had the good sense to resign from the Shadow Cabinet and return to the back benches when the dreadful Jeremy Corbyn was elected as Labour leader.

CorbynJust yesterday the Independent reported “Theresa May takes 37-point lead over Jeremy Corbyn in new poll – The poll of more than 10,000 British adults found that 55 per cent think the current Prime Minister is the best choice for the role“.  Analysis of the impact of Brexit by former Tory donor Lord Ashcroft found that 55 per cent of the poll of more than 10,000 UK adult respondents believe the current Prime Minister is the best choice for the role compared to 18 per cent who favour Mr Corbyn.  In a further blow to the Labour leader, only 38 per cent of his party’s supporters would prefer him in Downing St, compared to 29 per cent who believe Ms May is more suited to the job. 33 per cent said they do not know.

Predictions are that Labour will lose between 50 and 100 seats in the local government elections in May.  With HM Opposition in such disarray, whom can we turn to?

Tim Farron to the Rescue?

The Guardian has this: “Brexit vote is making UK a laughing stock abroad, says Tim Farron – Liberal Democrat leader says ‘malevolent forces’ such as Nigel Farage are tarnishing Britain’s image after EU referendum“.  The opening sets the tone for the article:

There is no doubt about it: this Conservative Government is hurtling like a runaway train towards a hard, ideological Brexit, with a weak Prime Minister lacking the guts to stand up to the reckless right-wingers sitting in the driving seat.”

Credence is given to this by this in the Financial Times: “Theresa May ensures only Brexit key allows entry to No 10 – Business leaders find access to PM elusive and there are unwritten rules“.

The sooner the sane remainers in the Conservative Party, the more sensible people in the Labour Party, the members of the Scottish National Party and the Liberal Democrats make common cause, the better.

Time for Some Changes ?

Is Mr Toad really the Witch’s Best Friend ?

toadwitchThe  Telegraph has this on Mr Toad’s latest little adventure:  “Syria crisis: Russia raises prospect of war if it is given G7 ultimatum as it mocks Boris Johnson’s no-show“.   The Guardian has this: “Syria conflict: Russia must act now to end bloodshed, says Fallon – UK defence secretary says Moscow directly complicit in suffering, writing that ‘latest war crime happened on their watch’.

The Independent reports: “Russia and Iran warn US they will ‘respond with force’ if red lines crossed in Syria again – Threat comes after UK Defence Secretary demands Vladimir Putin rein in President Bashar al-Assad“.

US Commentators

trumpvstoadSteve Coll writes in the New Yorker: “Trump’s Confusing Strike on Syria – If President Trump broadens his aims against Assad, he will enter the very morass that Candidate Trump warned against.”    Mr Coll describes the civil war in Syria as “the worst geopolitical disaster of the twenty-first century” but he is rightly concerned about the consequences.

Likewise, Ezra Klein writing in VOX opined: “Trump’s foreign policy is dangerously impulsive – Trump needs a foreign policy, not just reactions to what he sees on cable news“.  Mr Klein puts the problem pithily:   “This, above all else, is what is worrying about Trump on foreign policy: He is unpredictable and driven by whims. He is unmoored from any coherent philosophy of America’s role in the world, and no one — perhaps not even him — truly knows what he’ll do in the event of a crisis“.

Bloomberg’s Editorial Board has this: “Making the Syria Strikes Count” – well reasoned from a US perspective, the Editorial concludes: “When he visits Moscow next week, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will need to present a credible plan not only to eradicate the Islamic State threat, but to create a limited safe zone for Syrian civilians and accelerate Assad’s transition from power. Tillerson’s mission will be to convince Putin that any hope of a U.S.-Russia rapprochement will depend on how helpful the latter proves to be in Syria.

The Washington Post has this: “Could it be? Is President Trump on a roll?” with this telling comment: “Most analysts and political commentators are describing the attack as a calculated, level-headed decision by a president whose foreign policy disposition has been ambiguous. And oh, by the way, it doesn’t hurt that Trump did something so adverse to Russia in Syria. It showed that Trump is perfectly capable of acting with brutal hostility toward a vital interest of Vladimir Putin’s.”

Boris3
Clown Boris and “Smart Diplomacy”

Writing in the New York Times this morning, Antony J. Blinken, a Deputy Secretary of State in the Obama Administration, offers this Op-Ed: “After the Missiles, We Need Smart Diplomacy on Syria“.   Well, if “smart diplomacy” is needed, then HM’s present Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs is not the right person and the Wicked Witch of Westminster seems to agree with that.  Interestingly,  as appears from the Telegraph and Guardian articles, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon was the government spokesperson on Mr Toad’s latest adventure.

The Independent has this: “Boris Johnson cancels Russia trip after US air strikes in Syria – A visit by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will go ahead, while Mr Johnson gathers support among G7 nations” but the first posted reader comment on Clown Boris’s diversion from Moscow to the G7 was: “One can’t help wondering what gravitas, statesmanship and authority Bonking Bozo the clown was going to bring to the party. Was he going to hand around the biscuits perhaps?

The Financial Times has this: “Russia needs American help to seal the deal in Syria – After the air strikes, closer co-operation between Putin and Trump is more likely

The Financial Times also has this: “Trump sends aircraft carrier to waters off Korea – Experts divided over effectiveness of US tactics against Pyongyang’s nuclear threat“.

The Spectator has this: “North Korea must be tamed and Donald Trump is right to take action – The US President may be a reckless hothead but the world cannot tolerate a rogue state with nuclear missiles“.

ww-westminsterOne can see why the Wicked Witch of Westminster must needs cautiously support Mr Toad on these issues and it was probably wise of her to agree to have the US Secretary of State to deal with the Russians and to limit Clown Boris to the G7 meeting.

However, one op-ed in the Independent had this: “Theresa May deliberately humiliated Boris Johnson this week – her disdain for him is reaching dangerous levels – No one wants to become the latest poster boy for British subservience to Washington, or to wake on the Sabbath to ‘Boris the poodle’ (Moscow’s description). But May knew she couldn’t send him on a delicate mission with his counterpart Lavrov“.

The Guardian has this: “Russia decries cancelled Boris Johnson visit and warns on further Syria attacks – Moscow says decision to cancel trip shows Britain has no real influence and new aggressions in Syria will be met with force“.

Certainly, Clown Boris does not have the statesmanlike qualities of many of his predecessors in the office he holds.  But then, in reality, the UK is no longer the Great Power we once were.  Our Empire was dismantled in the the years following WW2.

We still have some trappings left – our influence within the Commonwealth – a “special relationship” with the USA – if only because because Americans speak “Murkin” which is a dialect derived from English – a seat on the UN Security Council and influence within the UN, NATO, and  within the EU.  But that latter zone of influence looks as if it is coming to a sorry end.

Worse, Mr Toad seems to wish to encourage the break-up of the European Union and perhaps therefore the reality is that he is no friend of the UK.

 Brexit means that UK world influence will be greatly reduced

Brexit Developments – Gibraltar

Four days ago, the Independent reported: “Brexit: Theresa May and Donald Tusk agree to ‘lower tensions’ over Gibraltar – The Prime Minister met the President of the European Council at Downing Street“.   How nice of Donald Trusk to say so.

But this 3rd April report in the Guardian shows  that Spain has other ideas: “Brexit talks: EU will not go soft on Gibraltar issue, diplomats say – Spain has cultivated support among bloc members over control of the Rock, senior EU diplomats tell the Guardian

Also on 3rd April, the Guardian had this: “‘We’re the sacrificial lamb’: Gibraltarians on Brexit sovereignty row – UK overseas territory could be included in trade deal with Spain’s agreement, says EU. We asked people of the Rock how they feel”.

As log ago as 21st July 2016, the Gibraltar Chronicle had this: “Spain could veto Brexit talks, Margallo says“:  “The Spanish Government will veto the terms of any Brexit negotiation between the UK and the EU that sought to include Gibraltar, Spain’s acting Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo said yesterday….“.

Nobody can say that this was unexpected  We knew it was coming.  On 17th January 2017, the Gibralter Chronicle had this: “Govt’s stark analysis highlights Brexit border challenge“:  “Nearly half of all jobs in Gibraltar would be put at risk by a hard border after Brexit, according to a detailed analysis prepared by the Gibraltar Government. The data, presented as written evidence to the House of Lords EU Select Committee by Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, identifies frontier fluidity as the key concern for Gibraltar as Britain prepares to withdraw from the European Union.”

Since the evidence was presented to the House of Lords, one would have though that the Wicked Witch and Clown Boris would have taken Gibraltar’s problem very much into account when preparing the Article 50 Notice.  It appears they didn’t bother.

On 6th April 2017 the Gibraltar Chronicle had this: “Clause 22 may yet change, for better or worse“.

Spain has been working on recovering Gibraltar ever since it was ceded to the British Crown in 1713 by the Treaty of Utrecht.  It will not give up easily.  

Brexit and Scotland

4 days ago, the Independent had this:  “Scotland rejoining EU would be ‘relatively speedy’, says senior German MEP – ‘If the political agreement would be there, then the process would be relatively speedy. Scotland is a member of the European Union and fulfils all of the conditions,’ says CDU member Elmar Brok“.

That is good news for Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP,  possibly also  for Scottish businesses – especially those in the financial services sector – indeed it could even result in some financial services players in England deferring Brexit relocation decisions and moving north of Hadrian’s Wall rather than relocating to Frankfurt, Paris or Dublin.

The Scotsman has this: “SNP could push through indyref2 bill to force May’s hand“.

may99Interestingly, the Scottish Sunday Herald has this: “Thumbs up for Nicola Sturgeon as other politicians see negative approval rating“.  A Lord Ashcroft Poll gave the First Minister a +11% approval rating with a -21% rating for her Conservative opponent and a -23% rating for Teresa May.  So the Wicked Witch of Westminster can stop interrogating her mirror!

Brexit and Free Movement

A week ago, the Independent and Open Britain launched a campaign:  “Drop the Target: Theresa May must scrap goal of reducing net migration below 100,000 a year – Campaign launched by The Independent and Open Britain is being supported by MPs across the political spectrum“.   That makes sense.  The target was never realistic.

Three days ago, the Independent had this: “Boris Johnson says freedom of movement can continue after Brexit – Foreign Secretary claims to be ‘one of the few British politicians to speak up on the benefits of immigration’“.

Yesterday the Independent has this: “Drop The Target: Senior Conservative MPs demand five-year immigration ban – Pro-Brexit politicians tell PM their hardline plan ‘will deliver on the will of the electorate’“.  According to the newspaper report, the messenger acting for the Leave Means Leave cabal was one Stephen Woolfe MEP, a former UKIP member who is now an Independent.  (Click on his name for his details on Wikipedia which are not impressive).

On the Leave Means Leave website, the following Members of Parliament are named as being members of this entity’s “Political Advisory Board” or as “Supporters”.  Their names below carry links to their respective Wikipedia entries.

People who live in the above-mentioned constituencies and who do not support a hard Brexit might want to consider the possibility of switching their support – for example to the Liberal Democrats: “The only party fighting to keep Britain open, tolerant and united“.

On 5th April 2017 the New Statesman had this “Exclusive: Conservative poll showed party would “lose seats” to the Liberal Democrats – Election strategist Lynton Crosby warned the party would lose MPs to the Lib Dems in an early election, sources say“.  According to the article, polling showed that the Conservatives would lose about 27 of the Conservative gains from the Liberal Democrats in the 2015 election.

On 6th April 2017 the New Statesman followed up with this: “What would be a good night for the Liberal Democrats in the 2017 local elections? – Tim Farron’s party have a favourable map and scope for gains“.

Obviously, one cannot be sure what outcome of future elections will be but the Conservative Majority in the present Parliament is small.  Over the two year period to Brexit there may well be changes.  One can only hope.

 

Brexit Chickens are coming home to roost

dMedia Bias

ww-westminsterOne of the advantages that assists the Wicked Witch of Westminster and her Brexit Clowns is that many UK newspapers are pro Brexit.   The Torygraph Telegraph is bad enough, but the Sun and the Mail are mass circulation titles and  are firmly in the Brexiteer camp.  Therefore, one expects that the Torygraph Telegraph, the Express, the Sun and the Mail will all run jingoistic pro-Brexit stories whenever possible.

Certainly, one is obliged to have regard to the Torygraph Telegraph because it has unrivalled access to  the thinking in Downing Street, just as one looks at the Guardian for its access to Labour and Liberal party thinking.   The Financial Times is possibly the best source for assessment of the financial impact of Brexit on the economy and the Independent often has useful reporting.

But it is worth remembering that different newspapers have different circulations.  The Press Gazette has the January 2017 circulation figures:  “National newspaper print ABCs for Jan 2017: Times and Observer both boost print sales year on year“.  Public opinion is more likely to be influenced by tabloids like the Sun (1,616,715) or the Mail (1, 511,317) than by the Financial Times (188,924)  or the Guardian (156,756).

It follows that the Brexiters had during the Referendum, and now continue to have during the Brexit negotiations, an inbuilt popular advantage.

Brexit and the Tory Right  

The day before yesterday the Financial Times had this: “May urged to assess impact of leaving EU without deal – MPs say claim that ‘no deal is better than bad deal’ is ‘unsubstantiated’”.  Among other things the report discussed an 11-6 split in the Committee vote with the Eurosceptics  in the minority.

The posted reader comments on the article were worth reading – among them this:-

If one tries to think logically – very logically – about it, to have said “no deal is better than a bad deal” is foolish and nonsensical, at least from the perspective of trade and economics.  It has all along been clear to the dullest of minds that “no deal” means WTO rules and 10% tariffs on autos, 25% tariffs on agriculture and loss of the passport for financial services. Maybe not Armageddon but still something of a car crash.  What only makes sense is “bad deal” being code for having to compromise on either free movement, jurisdiction of the ECJ or continuing to follow EU regulation, or any combination of these ethereal and largely illusory “take back control” sentiments that most Brexiters value – irrationally in my view – over economic prosperity.”

Yesterday, the Financial Times had this: “The ‘Brexit betrayal’ poses a hazard for Theresa May – Some MPs do not want a deal with the EU and will try to force her hand.”  This story is about the 80 or so Conservative MP’s who are in a cabal known as “The European Research Group” discussed in this Torygraph-Telegraph article from November last Year: “Heavyweight Brexiteers among 60 Tory MPs to demand clean break from the EU“.

The point is that this “total withdrawal” faction within the Conservative Party might scupper any post Brexit deal.  Names mentioned in the Torygraph-Telegraph include the likes of failures like Ian Duncan-Smith (thankfully only briefly a leader of the Party) and the obnoxious Michel Gove who wanted to stand against the Prime Minister in the post Referendum contest for the leadership of the Conservative Party but did not make it.

timesbrexitclownsBloomberg Politics had this two days ago: “Hammond Says Some on British Side Don’t Even Want a Brexit Deal” and the Indpendent had this: “Philip Hammond accuses Tory Eurosceptics of plotting to torpedo any chance of a Brexit deal – He predicted ‘tensions’ in the party as the Prime Minister pushes for a Brexit deal“.

James Blitz, writing in the Financial Times yesterday: “Theresa May’s bad news for Brexiters – PM has given 2 indications she is willing to compromise on previously hard position“.  Mr Blitz’s conclusion was this:-

The question now is whether Mrs May can see off the Tory right. She courted them willingly in the first phase of Brexit as she pursued the Article 50 process through the Commons. If she is serious about striking a deal with the EU, she will now have to disappoint them — and this could be dangerous.”

Brexit EU Negotiations

Yesterday’s  Torygraph Telegraph has this:  “EU negotiator says Brexit is ‘a Tory catfight that got out of hand’ and predicts next generation will return to bloc – as MEPs approve ‘red lines‘” which is a blow by blow account of a debate in the European Parliament on the negotiating terms.  One hopes that history will one day show that Guy Verhofstadt is right and that the UK (or what’s left of it by then) will rejoin the European Community.

In the event the European Parliament approved the negotiating stance proposed.

The Financial Times has this in its regular Brexit briefing: “Theresa May’s bad news for Brexiters – PM has given 2 indications she is willing to compromise on previously hard position” and a further more detailed article:  “Theresa May softens stance on Brexit roadblocks – UK PM accepts possible extension of EU rules after 2019“.

James Moore wrote in the Independent yesterday: “Theresa May has finally admitted we can’t immediately close our borders after Brexit – the fantasy is unravelling – Hot on the heels of that imaginary £350m for the NHS, another Brexit lie is crashing in to the white cliffs of Dover

Meanwhile, there is the continuing drip drip of business worries.

This is one:  “Ryanair ‘will have to suspend UK flights’ without early Brexit aviation deal – Falling back on WTO rules without a bilateral arrangement would be ‘disastrous’, says airline’s finance chief

Here is another: “Standard Life considers making Dublin its EU hub because of Brexit – Barring ‘something miraculous’ happening, the Edinburgh-based money manager will no longer be able to service its 500,000 Austrian, German and Irish clients from the UK, chairman Gerry Grimstone says“.

And here’s another: “Brexit: UK faces up to 100,00 job losses under new proposal to strip UK of euro business – Mr Weber, who heads the European People’s Party, the largest group in the European Parliament, said that it was not conceivable that euro-denominated business could remain in London“.

And finally today, this from the Independent: “Brexit: European bankers in UK sick of location limbo and are volunteering to leave – Staff at Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and HSBC have asked to return to their native countries inside the EU“.

The article is doubtless accurate – and, regrettably, the inane comments posted by many on-line readers are only what we have come to expect.

As an andidote, it is worth reading a Grant Thornton paper on the Impact of Brexit on the Financial Services Sector  which can be summarised by the key figures showing the worth of the Financial Services Sector:-

  • 2 MILLION+ jobs in the UK, of which two thirds are employed outside London
  • UK’S LARGEST TAX PAYING SECTOR paying £66bn in 2015/16
  • UK’S BIGGEST EXPORTING INDUSTRY with a £67bn contribution to the balance of trade
  • In 2014, exports of FINANCIAL SERVICES to the EU generated an £18.5bn trade surplus

This is only one sector of the economy where a hard Brexit will come at a considerable price.

Article 50 Skirmishing

The EU Stance on Brexit Negotiations

ww-westminsterThe Wicked Witch of Westminster  was hoping to conclude a Free Trade Deal with the EU in parallel with the Brexit negotiations.   It looks as though that was wishful thinking.  The Financial Times has this: “EU draws up tough stance on Brexit transition deal – Initial Brussels guidelines prioritise withdrawal terms over future relations.”

The Financial Times has the Council’s Negotiation Guidance here: “The EU’s Brexit negotiation guidance decoded – The full text of the European Council’s guidance for handling Britain’s withdrawal“.  Clicking on the highlighted parts of the text reveals the view of the FT specialists on the significance of particular passages.  For example, there is a passage about Gibraltar which relates to the 300 year old dispute with Spain about Gibraltar.

In that regard see this Financial Times article: “Gibraltar poses threat to post-Brexit aviation access – Spain signals it would block EU air access deal unless terms exclude Gibraltar airport

See also this report in the Gibraltar Chronicle: “Gibraltar border ‘won’t change too much’ post Brexit, Dastis says“.   Most Gibraltarians  would read this as meaning “there is trouble ahead“.

The Torygraph Telegraph had this:  “Outrage as Spain given ‘effective veto over future of Gibraltar’ under EU plans “.

The Independent has this: – “UK will ‘stand up for Gibraltar’ says Boris Johnson – Gibraltar’s Chief Minister said Spain’s lobbying of the EU over the territory’s future had been ‘unacceptable“.

One wonders how many Conservative members of The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Gibraltar voted for Brexit:  Andrew Rossindale MP, Vice Chair of the Group,  who is mentioned in the Torygraph Telegraph article did.  So did Jack Lopresti MP, who is Chair of the Group.  So did Robert Neill MP who is Secretary of the Group.

Did the Tory Brexit loons in the All Parliamentary Group not understand why Membership of the EU was important for Gibraltar?   Surely they would have read about the Gibraltar Referendum result in the Torygraph Telegraph: “Gibraltar votes overwhelming to remain“.

Why did 96% of the population of Gibraltar vote (19,322 to 823)  to Remain?  Simple:   Because it is membership of the EU which  has made Gibraltar’s relationship with Spain bearable.

timesbrexitclownsBoris Johnson is one of the Wicked Witch’s three Clowns responsible for the Brexit negotiations.  As Foreign Secretary, Clown Boris had  access all the Foreign Office archives on Spain-Gibraltar issues going back to the Treaty of Utrecht. Surely he would have been amply briefed on what Spain’s likely approach would be and could have anticipated this in the  Article 50 notice.

Country before Party ?

The Independent has this: “Theresa May is in retreat over Brexit. She’s finally remembered to put her country before her party – Hardline Conservative Eurosceptics will attack the Prime Minister’s desire to reach a mutual agreement with the EU, but they need the cold shower of realism that is coming“.

The Guardian has this: “Brexit sticking points: thorny issues diplomats must address – From debt haggling to May’s push for an ‘ambitious’ free trade deal, negotiators are gearing up for two years of tense talks“.

Ms Anna Soubry, MP – the Conservative Member for Broxtowe – writes in the Financial Times:  “The single market offers the UK a way to regain balance – Membership would protect our constitution from accidental damage.

Ms Soubry’s proposition makes a lot of sense but it is worth reading this on the Conservative Home blog: “If Britain needs a new party, we’ll only find out after Brexit“.

One doubts Ms Soubry’s proposition could be sold to Torygraph Telegraph readers and therefore it is not likely that the Wicked Witch of Westminster and her Brexit Clowns will give it much attention.