Brexit and Theresa May…

Well, the ‘Brexit weekend’ at Chequers has come and gone and, as a consequence, so have a number of government ministers. With the clock ticking even faster in terms of the deadline for exiting the EU in March 2019, it would seem that we (the government) have had to compromise. The main issue being – especially for the Brexiteers – how much of a compromise. Social media is full of people saying it’s a “sell-out” or even “traitorous” behaviour from Theresa May and her Cabinet and it would seem that quite a few Conservative MPs agree. However, her meeting with the 1922 committee a few days ago would seem to have been successful (at least in the short term and from her personal point of view) in that they reacted well to her ‘back me or get Jeremy Corbyn and Labour’ message/threat.

So what are the alternatives if she were to be ‘ousted’? Boris Johnson? Jacob Rees-Mogg? Jeremy Hunt? Each of these have ‘baggage’ regarding their personalities, their ‘heritage’ or what they have or haven’t achieved in their previous departments or jobs. One thing in Jacob Rees-Mogg’s favour is that he has been successful in most things he has done. But is he too ‘old school’? Given the wide view that Jeremy Hunt has ruined the NHS he is unlikely (maybe not with Conservative party members but with the wider public). Boris, of course, is seen as various types of fool…which he clearly is not.

If the ‘Chequers compromise’ is accepted by the EU, gets through parliament and forms the basis of Brexit, this will leave a massive and damaging legacy for Theresa May and the Conservative Party at the next General Election. The hard Brexiteers will not be happy and whatever the deal is, things will not have settled down well within 4 years – for the economy, trade or socially. Whatever the alternatives are from Labour or even a ‘resurrected’ UKIP, I doubt very much that they will remain in power. Even at grass roots level, “activists” are staying off the streets according to Peter Bone MP and locally, the local Party association are having difficulties in getting volunteers to ‘do stuff’ and in one case turn up to support the local Conservative MP in public. I noticed that a local public session designed to attract Conservative youngsters from the area to meet 2 local MPs and other Conservative stalwarts, has only attracted 6 ‘interested’ views on Facebook! Given the state of the local Conservative Party Association, I am not that surprised.

 

Local elections…Paul McCartney, minorities and MPs.

Well, 48 hours after some local councils and seats were up for grabs, there seems to be a surprising status quo, with very little change and all parties crowing about their successes and, in the case of Labour, a much repeated and well briefed “solid performance “. It is quite remarkable that Labour have not done much better given the status of the government and the criticisms of their performance generally and more specifically on Brexit. Usually at this stage of a government, you would expect a massive ‘swing’ away from them, but not so in this case.

Various people are suggesting that Jeremy Corbyn and his type of politics may have reached its ‘sell by date’ or that his ‘bubble’ has burst. I wonder if it is more that the younger voters, who supported Labour at the General Election and who may not have properties or recognise (local) services, did not bother to vote? In terms of Labour’s ability to bounce back when it really counts, only time will tell.

It seems amazing to me that someone who can only pluck a few strings on a guitar and churn out largely the same turgid so called music over many decades, could possibly be made a Companion of Honour. Just looking at many of the truly great and talented people who have been so awarded in the past, merely magnifies his void in talent or qualities one would expect for and from such a distinguished group. It never ceases to amaze me how the myth of the Beatles and its 4 members survived so long. They were, still are and will always be a very shallow expression of ‘music’ even in its broadest sense.

The Windrush issue continues to plague the news and, along with so many other minority issues, seems to occupy a hugely disproportionate amount of time in the media and in Parliament. Parliament, the media and society more generally, are giving far too much ‘airtime’ to these minority issues and in many cases individuals and, as a consequence, losing sight of the many issues that affect the majority of British people. Parliament ins particular should focus on government and not raising and discussing individual grievances. The job of MPs is and should be to gather these up in a coherent form and present them to Parliament as such.

Talking of MPs, it was once suggested to me that a ‘good manager’ should justify their existence away from their team, on their return, by gathering them together and explaining to them how their absence had added value to them and their output. I have often wondered why constituents don’t insist on that from their MPs, whilst they are away from their constituency?

National days, the individual and statues.

Let me begin by saying that the circumstances surrounding the death of Stephen Lawrence 25 years ago must have been horrific for him, his family and his friends.

My concern is to question the appropriateness of a ‘national day’ for one individual in these circumstances. After all, there have been many many others who have been murdered for what they are, or they represented, both white and black – Kriss Donald in Glasgow along with Richard Everett and Lee Rigby in London spring to mind, to ‘balance the books’. Personally, I would also question the motivation behind the fact that it is 25 years ago and maybe it’s time to move on? The point has clearly been made as both his parents and especially his mother, are now part of the ‘establishment’.

To develop this issue, I have noticed that many politicians and especially those in government and more widely in Parliament (predominantly on the ‘left’), have resorted to focusing on individuals and individual causes and cases. They raise individual (often named) cases in Parliament and at ‘Prime Minister’s Questions’ and, as above, we now have national days (paid for by the tax payer) for individuals. Surely the purpose of government and MPs is to collect and collate individual cases and present them as issues in a constituency or national context. If we spend too much time on individual cases (and for that matter referendums) the role and purpose of Parliament (and MPs) becomes degraded, devalued and eroded and the governance of the country and government is diluted.

Today, a statue to Millicent Fawcett is being unveiled in Parliament Square. This may be a different case/cause, but my concern is that it is being driven by a feminist cause (which so often is, by nature, one driven by misandry) rather than recalling the ‘mission’ she represented. If this is the case, this is sad, as it is of national importance to us all. I would also criticise the ‘art’ in the statue, as it lacks the subtlety of those around it. Most of the statues in Parliament Square are of people who said a lot, had a lot to say and is memorable, but they are not holding up banners, which I appreciate the Suffragists and Suffragettes did, of course. The words inscribed on the plinth would have been adequate, as with the staggeringly haunting Edith Cavell on the edge of Trafalgar Square. The images of another 50 or so individuals (who of course have to be mentioned!) also spoil the statue…and set a worrying precedent.