Richard Porritt's Agenda: Misfortune for Macron, Farage's filter and numbskulls in Number 10

PUBLISHED: 07:00 14 December 2017

French President Emmanuel Macron

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RICHARD PORRITT with the week's big stories, including Brexit health risks, trouble in Ukraine and controversy in Italy

Nigel Farage’s former spokesman Michael Heaver has been chatting to the BBC about his time with UKIP.

“Nigel Farage is such a machine,” Heaver, who got the job aged just 27, said adoringly. “What was very important was filtering out what he should and shouldn’t do, because there was too much to do.” If only that filter had worked a bit better, eh?

You might recognise Heaver celebrating next to Farage as he claimed victory in the early hours after the referendum vote. He added that Brexit is something he will look back on “with pride” and “tell the grandchildren about.” If quitting the EU screws up the chances of generations to come don’t expect a warm welcome, Granddad.

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Brexit could put the health of up to a million patients at risk, warned peers this week.

Members of the Home Affairs sub-committee of the Lords EU Committee wrote to the business secretary with the stark warning that if Brexit means leaving Euratom, the atomic energy agency, the supply of medical radioisotopes could stop. And this could make the detection of diseases more difficult.

Well this is confusing. Surely we are all going to live forever in the post-Brexit utopia where the NHS has an extra £350m a week?

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Here at The New European we are busy compiling our latest Brexit Power 100 list.

This arduous task comprises gathering together an exhaustive list of movers, shakers and the odd headbanger like David Davis and Jacob Rees-Mogg.

There are lots of very obvious names but the real skill is getting beyond the headlines and finding out about those behind the scenes. So I enlisted a friendly Tory to help with some advice on possible Number 10 staffers to include.

The conversation went something like this: “What about... ?” (It would be cruel to insert the names and I have to deal with these people).

The response to one candidate was: “He’s dreadful.” Another: “Not special.” And another: “Ha ha ha ha ha.” I abandoned my enquiries but not before my contact added: “You’d be amazed how many of these people are clowns.” We’re in safe hands folks.

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How long does Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko have left now Mikheil Saakashvili is free to try and overthrow his government?

There was applause in the court as the former Georgian premier walked free following attempts to keep him under house arrest in Kiev.

The court’s verdict marks a huge defeat for Poroshenko – who has faced mounting criticism for his failure to uproot endemic corruption – and perhaps the beginning of the end for his time in office.

Saakashvili said after the verdict that he will co-ordinate with other political forces in Ukraine to push for a peaceful change of government. And Yulia Tymoshenko, a former prime minister who leads an opposition party, attended the hearing in a show of support.

And of course, Saakashvili has form when it comes to toppling governments: in 2003 he was a key figure in the Rose Revolution protests that drove Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze from office.

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More bad news Emmanuel Macron – defeat in Corsica.

Nationalists there won elections for a new regional assembly, crushing Macron’s young centrist movement and traditional parties.

The nationalists want more autonomy from Paris but unlike those in the nearby region of Catalonia they are not yet seeking full independence.

In an unprecedented result, a coalition of moderate and harder-line nationalists won 56.5% of the vote.

It is the latest set back for Macron whose party won just six seats.

And the Corsicans are not the only nationalists causing him grief. Earlier this week French Basques protested in Paris demanding the release of fellow Basques held in prisons around the country for separatist activity. And far away in the South Pacific, the French territory of New Caledonia is preparing for a referendum on self-rule next year.

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Italian right-winger Matteo Salvini has caused some controversy.

In a bid to capitalise on a growing resentment of migrants and asylum-seekers, the leader of Lega Nord has said it would be “splendid” if he wins national elections so he can issue one-way tickets home to refugees.

Only one problem though – if Lega Nord is to make any kind of noticeable breakthrough nationally they will need to capture significant votes in the south.

Let’s hope the people in Italy’s south remember how Lega Nord have long denigrated them as living off government aid and tell Salvini where he can stick his one-way tickets.

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