I see you have joined the bandwagon of believers in Liz Truss as a possible successor to Hopeless Boris (“Twenty faces who’ll make or break 2022”, TNE #273). Yet almost all the clues to why this won’t happen are contained in your short piece.
As you allude to, Truss has been set up to fail with a brief that encompasses “powder kegs” China and Russia but also ongoing frustration in talks with the EU and USA and over issues like Afghanistan and Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
Given a wider platform, her “dorkiness” and “steely optimism” will remind the public of Theresa May and her flippant speeches of Boris Johnson.
The main reason Truss will not win, however, is that she was a Lib Dem until 1996 and a Remainer until June 24, 2016. One ideological lapse may be regarded as a misfortune, two looks like carelessness.
Can you imagine the likes of Steve Baker and Mark Francois, who run the Tories these days, voting her into the top two when they could give the keys to a long-time Leaver? My money is staying firmly on Rishi Sunak.
There’s one thing to be said for the idea of Liz Truss in Number 10. How refreshingly honest to have a prime minister whose name rhymes with “distrust”!
The “pork markets” stuff wasn’t the worst of Liz Truss’ 2014 Tory conference speech. The line I remember is “We import two-thirds of our cheese; that is a disgrace”. Is it possible that she has never tasted either French cheese or, for that matter, English cheese?
At the suggestion of Alastair Campbell (Diary, TNE #273), I read Liz Truss’ Chatham House speech. Apart from the lazy phrase-making he rightly highlights, what is most striking is the number of insults aimed at former allies who will not get with the programme and support Britain in everything she says and does.
Other countries are repeatedly told to “step up”, to “dump the baggage, ditch the introspection and step forward”, to “seize the moment” and to “stop fighting about the past”. They are instructed to celebrate British trade deals “even when you’re not part of them”.
This comes soon after Penny Mordaunt’s extraordinary speech in the USA, highlighted in a recent TNE podcast, in which she hectored her American hosts by saying it would be to their “own detriment” if they did not “wake up and make a choice” between Britain and the EU as a major trade partner.
What other country conducts its diplomacy this way? We are a laughing stock.
Comparing Boris Johnson and John Major, James Ball (“Johnson becomes a Major disaster”, TNE #273) writes that “Johnson has a landslide majority, whereas for most of his term Major was effectively running a minority government… Major’s administration was largely out of ideas, but couldn’t pass any old flight of fancy that crossed their mind (but) Johnson can rapidly pass all sorts of incoherent legislation that even his own ministers would surely stop if they had time to notice”.
The irony is that not even with a 78-seat majority, Johnson cannot pass Covid protection measures that are seen as sensible elsewhere in the UK and Europe because of the madness of the Covid Recovery Group (formerly the European Research Group). He will end up as yet another Tory PM done in by Brexiteers, though ironically it will probably be over Covid than Brexit.
Nice to see Hans Gruber getting a bio in Great European Lives (TNE #273). Another East German who – unlike Gruber – embraced the American Dream, also deserves a mention.
I’m talking, of course, of Colonel John Matrix, US special forces commando, doting father to Jenny, and liberator of Val Verde, whose story was filmed as Commando with Arnold Schwarzenegger. I think Matrix is still around, so no write-up in Great European Lives yet!
I have enjoyed every Great European Life so far, but a hearty “Yippee-Ki-Ay” to you for the Hans Gruber Christmas special.
Your Hans Gruber Great European Life reminded me of the tragically early death of Alan Rickman. Another good thing we lost in 2016.
The headline to John Kampfner’s piece “Anarchy in the Ukraine” is surely incorrect? (TNE #273). Ukraine was referred to as ’the’ when it was a mere region of the old USSR and my experience there suggests that locals are often offended when their independent nation is referred to as such.
I’m frequently taken by the humanity and perspective of Bonnie Greer, but her thoughts for the former employees of Topshop (“My Christmas tradition has been shelved forever”, TNE #273) was particularly welcome at in an era when we older ones are supposed to regard young people as selfish and deserving of all they get.
Elizabeth Hurley’s Father Christmas Is Back as “The Worst Xmas Film Ever” (TNE #273)? Clearly, Megan Nolan has never watched Jack Frost, in which Michael Keaton stars as a dead musician who comes back to life as a snowman when his son plays a magic harmonica. The film also features brother and sister Dweezil and Moon Unit Zappa, whose first names are the most sensible thing about it.
John Cleese and Elizabeth Hurley both appear in your “worst Christmas film ever”. Both were also keen Brexiteers. Something about being addicted to poor choices?
A Quiz For Europe (TNE #273) mentions Jairzinho’s spell at Marseille. This was curtailed after he slapped a linesman rather than jostled a referee, as you say.
His Brazil countryman Paulo Cesar had an even more memorable stay with OM. At one stage, having been kicked out of his club flat for running up large phone bills with calls home, he dyed his hair red as a protest. At another, he flew back late from a trip to Brazil to be told he was being fined the maximum of 50,000 francs. He paid this, then flew back to Brazil again.
Reading Leonard Henry’s letter (“Birth of a republican”, Letters, TNE #272), I was reminded of something that happened early in my teaching career and wondered if that too promoted the republican cause.
The Queen Mother was paying a visit to an establishment in our village and to welcome her, all the children from both primary and secondary schools were marched down to line the main road. The plan was that all traffic would first be stopped and the royal visitor would then sweep past majestically to much cheering and flag-waving.
The children waited patiently, but it soon became clear that there was a problem as the traffic only stopped sporadically. Eventually, after much waiting, the road became quiet, at which point, a chap on a bicycle pedalled past and to huge cheers, laughter and excited flag-waving, he graciously gave the royal wave to his young audience.
The fast traffic then resumed and during it, the royal visitor passed unnoticed.
It was later discovered that the police were relying on walkie talkies either end of the village to communicate with each other, but they did not work.
Bail us out
On recent trips to Lord’s, I have seen both Nigel Farage and Jacob Rees-Mogg.
Despite their antipathy towards all things EU, I do wonder whether they might support my new campaign for England to play Test matches against European nations rather than the Australians.
Bury St Edmunds
Many of our leaders chortled with irrational joy at the return of the deep blue cover of our United Kingdom passport, shorn of any mention of the ’odious’ European Union.
The toddler tantrums of the very same people regarding the need to carry a Covid Pass to enjoy certain benefits are certainly ringing hollow in my ears. Nicholas Kerr
In 2020, I was given a shiny new 50p coin in my change, which I have kept since then.
It had a three-word slogan on the back, which read “DIVERSITY BUILT BRITAIN” in capitals. As modern politics seems to thrive on three-word slogans, I thought this one was worth promoting.
I decided to collect any I came across, which I could give out to those who disagreed. But despite looking out for more since then, I have not found any others to collect.
Was it a very limited edition or did the government or home office withdraw them all on the grounds that the slogan might have been considered an encouragement to migrants visiting the UK?
Re: BBC priorities. Over Christmas on Radio 4’s Today programme, I heard Sir Jeremy Farrar, Head of the Welcome Trust, trying to explain the scale of investment needed to get out of the COVID pandemic within five years (yes, he said five years, and that the investment needed to achieve that is not happening).
He was cut off so that the BBC could switch to an important announcement about the new film sequel to The Matrix.