I liked the wonderful Anna Soubry’s interview with Tim Walker (“Abuse MPs get makes me shudder”, TNE #265). Her telling Jo Swinson she was talking “total bollocks supplied to you by Fairies Inc” was priceless. Her observation about the return of “inflation, racism, sexism, misogyny” was adroit.
I also agree with her re David Amess’s killing being a catalyst for people to calm down. I am appalled at his murder. I was also moved by some of the comments made by Mark Francois – my MP and a man I usually have little time for – about Amess in Parliament.
The anger is everywhere. In the moderated online ‘below the line’ section of two national newspapers, I have recently read people advocating the return of apartheid to South Africa and slating Gareth Southgate as a “joke, clown, useless etc” apparently for being an anti-racist who fell just short of delivering England’s first trophy in more than 50 years.
We need strong, decent and principled politicians to confront the immense challenges of the 2020s. I hope Anna Soubry reconsiders leaving politics.
What a gloomy but accurate analysis of the state of politics Anna Soubry offered. She is lucky she has a career in law to return to.
Good luck Anna, you’re another best prime minister we never had!
All the good Tories – like Anna Soubry – seem to have been forced out at the last general election, especially those who practised as barristers. Instead, the Conservative Party is full of professional politicians, PR people, ex-lobbyists and second-rate hacks who worked for Rupert Murdoch and other right-wing dailies.
It is a dumbed-down party for an increasingly dumbed-down country that prefers to watch reality TV than think about how due process and the rule of law are being eroded and that this country is a laughing stock.
Good COP? No, bad COP
We don’t really have to wait until the end of November. It is already obvious that COP26 (“Hot Air”, TNE #265) will be a failure. What we will get, of course, is our pro-Brexit Tory media – especially the Express and Mail who did so much to discredit climate change science – now gushing on about how Boris and Great Global Britain will, single-handedly, solve the world crisis, blaming the absentees, China and Russia, while omitting to mention the backsliding of India, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Brazil, Japan, or Trumpite America – all of whom we hope to cosy up to for dodgy, climate-wrecking trade deals come December.
In the meantime, Glasgow will grind to a halt as the world’s great and not-so-good, the tyrants and thieves, the billionaires and out of touch heads of state, assemble, enjoy big banquets, give speeches, smile, pose for the cameras, then return to screwing their citizens and fighting proxy wars.
If the Tories are really lucky this will distract from Covid, Christmas, shortages, the NHS crisis, Northern Ireland, Lord Frost making a schoolboy idiot of himself, and the slow, ongoing disaster that is Brexit.
Sovereign ring of untruth
Can someone explain the claims that the EU treaties are somehow special in involving sharing or losing sovereignty? Obviously lies and contradictions don’t bother most Brexiters but your own article on Edward Heath (“The night passion paid off ”, TNE #265) seemed to take the claims about sovereignty as though they made sense. Why?
Individuals who don’t want to live in a cardboard box under a bridge and beg for food have to sign countless contracts – mortgage, employment, credit cards, rent agreements, marriage, etc. We don’t say we are ‘losing our freedom’, we think we are exercising it.
Similarly, states exercise their sovereignty by signing countless treaties. Many treaties involve ‘courts’ like the ECJ to resolve disputes between the parties by judicial means (e.g. human rights, fishing, international borders).
To avoid the state equivalent of living in a cardboard box we have had to replace the EU treaties immediately with about 70 new treaties (a less advantageous one with the EU and copies of EU treaties with 60-odd other states).
How can you have sovereignty left the EU and simultaneously claim to have not been sovereign? How are we more sovereign obeying 70 treaties than the ones they were copied from?
Hard luck of the Irish
Desmond FitzGerald (Letters, TNE #265) appears to have forgotten that during the 2016 referendum campaign, Theresa Villiers, then secretary of state for Northern Ireland and an ardent Brexiteer was insistent that Brexit would not mean a hard border across Ireland as was the DUP. Now they have to deliver on their promises.
The majority of Northern Ireland’s electorate have made it clear through the ballot box that they do not want a hard border, first in 2017 at the Stormont elections and second in 2019 in the Westminster elections.
Whatever Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage fans in England may think, the former PSNI chief constable already made it clear that his force is simply not prepared to police a hard border across Ireland. That would leave the British army and I think everyone knows how that would finish.
Far better, for all concerned, to respect the democratically expressed wishes of Northern Ireland’s electorate and work the protocol that was, never forget, Boris Johnson’s personal initiative hailed in October 2019 by the Brexit press as a British diplomatic triumph.
I was interested to read Charlie Connelly’s piece on Sophie von La Roche (TNE #265), which introduced me to a writer of whom I knew nothing and wish to know more.
However, he claims she was “the first European woman to make an independent living as a writer”. I believe this honour falls to Christine de Pisan (c. 1364-c. 1430).
Christine was also, arguably, a proto-feminist and deserves wider recognition. Her biography, by Charity Cannon Willard (1984), is a good place to start for anyone interested in her and her writings.
In Quiz for Europe (TNE #265) you showed a photograph of Rachele Mussolini, who has just won more votes than anyone else in the admin elections for Rome.
The ‘answer’ section stated that she is Mussolini’s daughter. Oh dear! This is Benito’s granddaughter.
Richard S Walmsley
What a Carrie on…
Mandrake (TNE #265) tells us that Boris Johnson wants his wife to have official recognition, like her “counterpart in the White House.”
The wife of the British prime minister can never be the “counterpart” of the American first lady, because Mrs Biden is the wife of the president of the republic of the USA, its head of state. The British PM is appointed by the head of state of the United Kingdom, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Newcastle upon Tyne
Mandrake (TNE #264) tells us that moves to relocate the House of Lords to the north of England have fallen on stony ground. It seems that peers “couldn’t be bothered to traipse ‘up north’ to vote”.
One had presumed that peers were evenly distributed throughout the country to best represent the needs of the nation. Therefore moving the House of Lords to, say, York would be no more troublesome than moving it to any other city.
Is that not the case? Are the Lords all predominantly and disproportionately based in London and the south-east?
James Ball’s article (“Why are the Tories so keen on punishing young people?” TNE #264) asked what the Conservatives have got against the young.
The answer is they know that almost none of the young vote Tory, and they know that with an ageing population, the young can always be out-voted by the old.
Our democracy is in a terrible state as a result. When the retired electorate can out-vote the working electorate, rational thought and aspirations evaporate in a haze of warped and inaccurate memories of “the good old days” as if they ever existed.
I am 65 years old and am thoroughly ashamed of the voting patterns of the age group I have recently joined. Too many of them acquired their quavering grasp of political history from the opening titles of Dad’s Army.
It doesn’t seem to be just the Tories punishing young people. Keir Starmer is doing his best as well by just ignoring them.
I was fortunate to be born just after the Second World War and worked from the age of 15 until 62. I couldn’t afford to buy my own home and neither could many in my immediate circle. We were – and are – happy to pay our taxes for decent public services for all.
I feel as disgusted with the Tories (for whom I never have and never will vote) as the younger generations. I have children and grandchildren and fear for their futures.
Please stop characterising all the post-war generation as selfish and greedy, we aren’t and it helps no one.
I agree with James Ball that rightwing politicians use the “war on woke” to discredit ideas that are well worth discussing or supporting, but the issue isn’t quite as simple as that. If Will Self (TNE #263) is right that “contemporary post-colonial literary critics are…. intent on spiking the Western canon altogether”, on the grounds that not to do so is to endorse white supremacy, isn’t that worth discussing, too?
Don’t be conned by Boris Johnson’s announcement of grants to replace gas-fired boilers. This woefully inadequate scheme will only replace 90,000. That’s probably just about enough for Middlesbrough with maybe a few in Hartlepool.
It replaces the current Renewable Heat Incentive that provides households with around 85% of the cost of installing an air-source or ground-source heat pump, for which you need larger radiators, a new control panel and there is a significant labour charge.
The overall cost of a typical installation is around £11,000. It’s not just the cost of the pump, which is less than 50% of the total.
Some of the equipment costs may well come down, though the labour charge will not in our high skills, high wage economy.
Under the RHI, you get about 90% of the cost back over seven years, so there is a large initial outlay that can be provided by a low-interest loan.
The RHI scheme comes to an end on March 31, 2022, the day before Johnson’s measly offering kicks in. I have just had a heat pump installed. The overall cost was £12,500, of which I will get £11,250 back.
So, as we have come to expect, Johnson’s scheme is all wind and water and cynical political timing.
Incoherence as a strategy
Chris Grey (“Doublethink PM is playing us for fools”, TNE #264) is right to point out the incoherence of the Brexit project and of Boris Johnson and his government when they put forward one proposition then its opposite, to the exhaustion of his critics.
Yet Johnson’s incoherence has a function. One parallel in biology is ‘protean display’ – the frenzied chaotic behaviour of a prey animal cornered by a predator, hoping to confuse the predator and thereby escape. It is one of two last ditch efforts to avoid death, the other being feigning death.
Similar less dramatic displays are seen in the playground. Some children when confronted by a bully, act funny and silly, confidently start another activity, and in doing do invalidate the threat by pretending it does not exist.
Some comedians say they developed their art in threat situations like this. Johnson himself tells of his intermittent partial deafness when a child and developing similar ways of getting out of awkward situations when he did not hear well.
A key point here is that this strategy is the product of insecurity and threat and is about the survival of the individual, not the welfare of others.
Dr John Richer
Your insightful article by Chris Grey brilliantly captures the inconsistencies of government statements, more recently exemplified by Sajid Javid’s policy statement that Covid continues to threaten us all, combined with a refusal to resort to any palliative measures because it isn’t dangerous.
This succinctly reflects the kernel of the government’s attitude: Javid knows that wearing a face mask protects others rather than ourselves, but is content to leave it to the individual to take the decision.
In this he exposes a refrain that is fundamental to virtually every political decision to which we are exposed: “I’m all right, so bad luck, mate”.