Richard Porritt's Agenda: early Christmas wishes, red lines and picking fights

PUBLISHED: 07:00 04 January 2018

Tory MP and Hard Brexiteer John Redwood mimicks then Labour minister Tony Banks at the 1997 Conservative conference in a joke which has not stood the test of time

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RICHARD PORRITT on the week's big stories, including stern warnings in Greece, unlikely heroes in Rome and Denmark's most unfortunate taxi driver

Sir Vince Cable’s vow to use the House of Lords in a bid to stop the UK leaving the EU will likely irk many Brexiteers.

The Lib Dems have long called for reforms to the upper chamber but, thank the Lords, Sir Vince is going to be pragmatic when the Brexit bills start to land.

Asked if he was happy to use the 100-strong Lib Dem bloc in the Lords he told LBC: “Yes.. no... I’d like to have the whole system reformed. It’s a bad system, but as long as it’s there, we’ve got to... make it work. I’m not happy to use it, but I will.

“We would stay within the European Union. We haven’t left it yet, but it’s possible that Theresa May could produce a miracle and we could have some really good outcome and people would be positive about it, but I’m sceptical we’ll get there.”

The Lib Dems have started 2018 strongly as they look to build on their campaign for a second referendum to be held in December. Is it too early to make Christmas wishes?

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But the Brexiteers have also fired their opening salvo of the new year – in the shape of more “red lines”.

Conservative think tank the Bow Group claimed it had the backing of 130 MPs for its series of demands to the PM. The poor woman must be pig sick of red lines by now.

Some of the points on the hard-line wish list included:

  • No divorce payment to the EU
  • No transition period after March 2019
  • An end to European Court of Justice jurisdiction and free movement

They don’t ask for much do they? Of course John Redwood is a patron of Bow Group so this nonsense should be immediately filed in the (loony) bin.

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David Davis is at it again – trying to pick a fight with the EU.

In an echo of what many EU leaders have been explaining to Britain he said the EU “cannot cherry-pick the terms of a free trade deal”.

But in a sign that Davis’ macho posturing over Brexit is wearing very thin one Tory aide said: “Almost every time he speaks we wince. He appears to think he is some tough guy negotiator but the PM has bailed him out already.” Do be quiet DD.

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Prokopis Pavlopoulos, the Greek President, used his New Year’s message to send a stern warning to Ankara.

Turkey had taken umbrage over a Greek court’s decision to grant asylum to a Turkish officer accused of being part of the failed 2016 coup.

A spokesman for the Turkish foreign ministry had called the move “politically motivated” but Pavlopoulos said: “We are not arrogant, we do not overestimate our power, neither will we underestimate them.

“Our role is historic even where our neighbours are concerned. When they forget themselves, we should show them the right way.

“When necessary we are united and strong and we will show this.”

The Turkish officer was one of eight who had claimed asylum in Greece. And even though only one was granted asylum a Government spokesman added that irrespective of the ruling none of the men would be extradited.

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Christmas had an unlikely hero in Rome this year – a very sad-looking, 65ft Norwegian spruce dubbed Baldy. The tree was at first described as an embarrassment by many in Rome after it quickly began to shed its pine needles and drooped. The anger was increased when it was revealed the tree had been brought to Rome from the Italian Dolomites at a cost of more than £44,000.

With the festive period in full swing Rome’s Mayor even launched an inquiry to discover what had caused poor old Baldy to go all droopy – not being covered properly on his trip to the city is apparently the issue.

But as the weeks passed the people of Rome’s anger turned to love – and by the time the big day came around the city had fallen for their sorry tree. And now, in an extraordinary turn around instead of getting the chop Baldy could well be on his way to a museum.

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It might have been a happy New Year for Baldy but for one poor taxi driver December 31 was a nightmare.

The outlandish tale which has made Scandinavia giggle begins in Copenhagen when a tipsy passenger stumbled up to the taxi and ordered it to take him home – almost 400 miles to Oslo.

Six hours later when the cab pulled up outside the chap’s house, he jumped out and walked through his front door. But didn’t return to settle his £1,640 bill.

The panicked cabbie banged on his door but it seems the drunk man needed more time to sleep off the skinful he had enjoyed the day before – it had by now turned midnight across Europe.

Luckily the police roused him and he happily paid the whopping bill. But during the drama the cabbie had left his lights on, running his battery flat.

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