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Wednesday, 27 July 2016

The Amazing Comeback of Dr Liam Fox

When I began blogging I fancied myself as a political pundit and so on 31 December 2010 I made my Predictions for 2011. I made three and got two right, including the prediction that by the end of December 2011 Dr Liam Fox would not be Secretary of State for Defence. He resigned in October 2011, mired in scandal, but basically because he had used his very major government post to pursue private agendas and, more specifically, to enable one of his friends, Adam Werritty, to pursue private business agendas under ministerial cover. The freelancing was blatant, even as early as December 2010. You just had to read the newspapers.

Now Dr Fox is back with an extraordinary brief to look for new alternatives-to-Europe Trade Deals and within days he is clearly pursuing his own agenda rather than one which has been collectively agreed in Cabinet or endorsed in Parliament. He has his own vision of what Brexit should look like and he is using his new post as trade envoy to promote that. There are two possibilities. Either his vision becomes government policy, by Cabinet decision or simply because Dr Fox got there first (at the moment, government is on extended holiday so if he works through August and September he has a head start on the slackers). Or he will be out of a job by Christmas. It is comforting to think the latter will be true, so I choose it and predict that Dr Fox will have to resign or will find himself moved by the end of 2016 and more or less for the same reasons that he had to resign in 2011. I don't think he understands collective responsibility or the difference between what he wants and what his official post entitles him to do.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

What I said about Jeremy Corbyn on the day he was elected Leader ...

Every few years, there is an event which attracts me enough to watch it live or nearly live: the 2010 Leaders' Debates for the UK General Election, the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games, and today the Declaration of the Labour Leadership election - about which I was actually quite excited (though not excited enough to have watched any of the "Hustings" debates):

Oh dear, is this really the best they can do?

Tom Watson gets up and sounds like a one man Tribute Act to the past. That doesn't matter so much. But then we get to the new Leader ...

This is going to go out live and be endlessly played as clips on TV News. It's Mr Corbyn's first big chance to sound like a Leader who means business ...

Mr Corbyn takes from his pocket his notes, and goes through the List of people who have to be Thanked ...

Yes, maybe they do have to be thanked. But not like this. You have just been elected Leader of the Labour Party and thus Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition. You hit the ground running:

"Thank you to all of of you who have made me Leader of the Labour Party and - as a consequence, I suppose -  Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition. I think we need an Opposition. What is there not to Oppose? The Tories now have all the power in this country thanks to the recent votes of 25% of the electorate. And they have already made it plain that they intend to make the most of that power to serve the interests of the few not the many. That is what we are going to oppose. 

Nor it seems are the Tories going to show any humanity in how they go about things. Mr Cameron's lack of compassion has become clear to everyone in the last couple of weeks. It is to Yvette Cooper's great credit that she found time during this leadership Election campaign to stand up for a decent, generous response to the plight of refugees. That is the kind of thing we stand for. "

Enough said. You work your Thank You's into your speech. You speak to the whole country not just to the party faithful. With a good speech writer, it's easy enough do both at the same time ... and your speech writer can make sure you can find variants on the word "passionate", something Mr Corbyn was unable to do - a real passion-killer that.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Deborah Cameron's Summer Reading Picks

Times Higher Education summer reads 2016
Members of the higher education community tell us about two books they plan to take on holiday: a new must-read and a classic worthy of a second look

Deborah Cameron
Professor of language and communication, University of Oxford

I’m about to embark on a project that involves revisiting the classic texts of second-wave feminism, and I’m planning to begin with a book I haven’t read since I was 20: Shulamith Firestone’s The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution, an ambitious attempt at what its author called “a materialist view of history based on sex itself”. My new book is The Best I Can Do(degree zero), a collection of short essays in which the philosopher-turned-stamp-dealer Trevor Pateman reflects on everything from bus passes to the semiotics of lipstick – and whether scholarship should be a hobby rather than a salaried occupation.

From THE, 14 July 2016

David Cameron's Strange Resignation

Imagine that on the morning of 24 June, David Cameron had gone in front of the TV cameras and said, " The results for the Advisory referendum are in and we have 52%for leaving and 48% for staying with broad support for leaving in England and Wales, and broad support for staying in London,Northern Ireland and Scotland. I shall of course be asking Parliament to consider these results carefully and my Government will of course need a parliamentary vote to determine our future course of action"

But instead he resigned and created some turmoil, now brought to some temporary close by the choice by Tory MPs of Theresa May to succeed him as Prime Minister. Both he and she were Remainers in the Referendum - the Leavers (Gove, Johnson, Leadsom, Farage ... ) all now out of the picture and all of them having disgraced themselves in one way or another.

Parliament has still not had a say, there is still no BREXIT policy - except insofar as Mrs May has by-passed Parliament and said that she will now lead a Government of (mostly) Remainers  putting themselves forward as eager Leavers (Mr Fallon, "We are all Brexiters now" - I suppose he had the Vicar of Bray in mind).

All very strange.

Friday, 1 July 2016

2016 - 2021 and Beyond?

Here in the UK, we are now looking at five more wasted years, years in which the economy will be stagnant or decline, in which the quality of life will deteriorate, and in which politicians will have very little to show for their salaries and the share of media time they command. Imagine that the country is now going to be run by a second-rate Town Council forever. That's pretty much what it will be like.

The vote for BREXIT was a vote for national decline and, probably, national disintegration. If the Scots have any sense, they will get out - and they shouldn't wait five years before doing so. If the Northern Irish have any sense, they will ask Dublin for an offer they can't refuse: keeping their power sharing government, but under Irish sovereignty, and adopting the euro as currency. Nothing else seems to make sense.

As for Wales and Cornwall and the North of England, well, they deserve everything they have asked for.

As for Mr Johnson, he is simply biding his time. There will come a day, he hopes, when Mr or Ms Chamberlain will step off that plane from Germany waving that worthless bit of paper, that humiliating deal with  the EU, and then Mr Johnson can step forward as Mr Churchill.