Tempestuous climate on QT

What a show – it was horrible. The panel was more balanced on last night’s Question Time than it used to be, and the fur flew.  Before the end, I had to turn off – it was too painful.  The main issue this week was Extinction Rebellion:  for the panel included Rupert Read of that distinguished band of vandals.

On the panel, presided over loosely by Fiona Bruce, were Grant Shapps, speaking for the Conservatives but increasingly acting as the only voice of reason that evening; Lisa Nandy of Labour, who became increasingly detached from any semblance of reality as the evening wore on; Rupert Read of Extinction Rebellion, of whom more later but who made even Lisa Nandy look reasonable; Theo Paphitis as the voice of the frustrated rest-of-us; and Julia Hartley-Brewer, the rent-a-mouth whose sole virtue is being able to expose hypocrisy by being rude to everyone else.

We kicked off with the environment, climate change, and the actions of Extinction Rebellion, and voices rose to fever pitch such that you might imagine the rise in global temperature was solely caused by the Question Time panel. There is no logic in debate anymore. No one on the panel was arguing for climate change being a fantasy or unimportant. No one was arguing against its being hastened by mankind, so you would have thought all would be sweetness and light. It was the very opposite.

Maybe it would have been easier if they could just have said to Read that he is a nutcase and taking such complete nonsense it is only a surprise that he does not laugh at himself, but instead this was in form a civil debate, and as a result it turned into a shouting match.

It takes a lot for me to be on Julia Hartley-Brewer’s side, but she made the unchallengeable point (which Grant Shapps missed) that the Industrial Revolution was the greatest and most beneficial thing ever to happen to mankind.  It is a pity that the point could not be taken further, to analyse the anti-industrial rhetoric of Extinction Rebellion, to compare their (unscientific) protest that millions, or even billions, will be killed by climate change with the utter certainty that millions would die of disease and starvation were the Industrial Revolution to be reversed anywhere in the world.  Again Hartley-Brewer nailed it with her characteristically undiplomatic approach, that Extinction Rebellion is a “quasi-religious death cult”.

Rupert Read believes himself, which is worrying. He said that he wants the government to start by’ telling the truth’, but every statement he made was wrong, and he must have known it. When Grant Shapps demonstrated that Britain has cut carbon dioxide emissions mare than any other country, Read said the figures were fiddled (they are not); he made wild claims on what ‘the science’ says which bore no relation to any scientific papers; he said that no one was talking about acting on climate change until the Extinction Rebellion began – somehow ignoring decades of work and public concern on the subject, begun incidentally by Margaret Thatcher.  ‘XR’ must have a point, he said, because they are invited onto QT: well so was Nick Griffin of the BNP, mate. His knock-down proof of the rightness of Extinction Rebellion was that a sixteen year-old, traumatised autistic girl supports them. He even compared himself to the suffragettes and Martin Luther King.  There is delusion there of the highest order.

Even so, Read was cheered from the audience, which he took as validation. The audience may indeed care about the future of the environment – don’t we all – but does not mean accepting every contradictory madness proposed by his cult.  After that I was not convinced by Julia Harley-Brewer’s description: there is nothing ‘quasi’ about their religion.

We were also introduced to Lisa Nandy, a Labour Party star – she has been tipped for leadership. Please put her on television more – she discredits herself and her party wonderfully. She castigated Hartley-Brewer on the environmental issue (don’t feed the troll, Lisa) saying that environmental catastrophe would harm the value of pension funds – but somehow omitted to say how sudden deindustrialisation, or Corbyn, would not.

It was a relief to get off climate change, and the climate in the studio could cool.  Of course the next topic was Brexit, for some light relief.

On Brexit, out came Lisa Nandy, coming into her own.  She accused Boris Johnson of junking a deal with the EU:  she insisted that there was a deal agreed but somehow it had never been allowed to go before parliament. Well, the rest of the country know perfectly well that there was a deal, for we have memories going back more than five minutes, and that it was put before the Commons three times and each time Nandy and her colleagues voted against it. Challenged on this by Grant Shapps, she claimed there was another deal agreed by all parties (presumably known only unto her and not to the government nor the EU) which was not put.  This was fantasy. Just repeating the same untruth again and again makes enough people believe it to vote, but it is horrid to watch except in morbid fascination.

At that point, Rupert Read came back in with his one good point of the evening:  Brexit, deal or no deal, is not the end which will allow us to get back to normal politics: from that point the Government must start negotiating more trade deals with the EU, so it goes on. It sounded a bit odd after he had just been castigating all and sundry for using ships, aircraft and lorries – surely he would want a complete, self-sufficient autarky to keep those environmentally harmful ships in port?

With no sign of reality breaking out from anyone but Theo Paphitis and Grant Shapps, I finally gave up.

Books

What happens next for Boris?

What happens next? The Surrender Act 2019 is law, the Advocate General has assured the Court of Session that the Government will comply, but the Cabinet have reasserted that no extension will be made to Brexit Day. The clock is ticking, the fireworks are almost in the shops, and the Parliamentary wolves are at the heels. The hard Remainders know it is their last moment or hope, and Labour know that this is the moment at which Boris can be broken, and if the Boris Bubble bursts, they are back in the game. You see, as I have observed before, it is not really about Europe.

Now Angela Merkel has lobbed her parting shot – she is retiring soon and does not have to take responsibility any more. That leaves innumerable questions, but we can ask:

  • Will Boris sign and send the extension letter which the Abject Prostration Before Brussels Act prescribes?
  • How will he send it (if not by carrier pigeon, which has been ruled out)?
  • Is there a loophole?
  • If the letter is sent, and reaches Brussels, how does Boris stop the Commission from seizing on it and forcing an extension?
  • Will the Commission or one of the remaining member states veto an extension?
  • Is the Commission’s carefully worded response a measured tactic, or genuine?
  • Is Angela Merkel’s latest statement a negotiating tactic or a killing stroke to the deal, and is she in charge anyway?
  • How do we read Donald Tusk’s rebuke to the German, when he has previously been negative towards London?
  • Can Jean-Claude Juncker in his last days in office sign the deal on his personal authority as a treaty on behalf of the Commission, bypassing objections from member states?
  • Or can Donald Tusk sign for the Council?
  • How will the landscape change when the new Commission gathers on 1 November 2019 (if it matters by then)?
  • In Parliament, will any of the Blue Rebels be won over at the last minute?
  • If a deal is agreed, will Parliament approve it this time, given that most of the Blue Rebels say they are in favour of Brexit with a deal, and voted for the May deal?
  • If the United Kingdom crashes out dealless, will Boris sign a post-completion agreement, bypassing Section 13?
  • Will Stormont meet, and what will they do?
  • How many more vain legal challenges will Jolyon Maugham be paid to run in the meantime?
  • How many other political parties will Heidi Allen join before the parliamentary session is over?

The answer to all these question is the same: I don’t know – why ask me?

See also:

Books

Margaret Thatcher

Conservative Conference 2019: The Speech

Last day of the Conference, and it was Boris’s day. Whatever else was happening (and it was), the only thing that will be talked about is the speech.

Boris Johnson follows Disraeli as the second first-rate stand-up comedian to enter Number 10 and he is loving it, as are we.

It was not just a Brexit speech: after three years and the complete meltdown of the political system as a result it was unavoidable that the subject dominated – but it looked ahead also.

Oh – and we have been riding so high on this Brexit lark: what will we do what it is achieved? It’s back to normal politics, and the Socialists hammering at the NHS and class war and all the dishonesties of politics. If the election is delayed to when it legally has to happen, which is May 2022, who knows what will have happened?

To the speech, I will add nothing, but let you hear it all.

Books

By Boris Johnson:

Margaret Thatcher

By David Cameron

By Tim Bale

Brexit

Others

By Rory Stewart:

Conservative Conference Report: Day 3

The main conference floor has been a bit dull this year, but of course it is hard to announce major policy successes when the Commons are so deadlocked that nothing new can be done. It is a rally of the faithful, but a jar to see some of the faithless there too; the whipless ones. That said, there is more to Conservatism than one policy and when Brexit is over and done (in four and a half weeks, we hope, desperately) then we can re-examine who our friends are.

Off the main floor is where the real activity is. I cannot count the number of side meetings and fringe events there are: ‘fringe’ is a misnomer as I am convinced more good policy is worked out here than anywhere else, and more daft policy too.

The policy announcements we have heard often involved spending a lot of other people’s money. That is a bad sign. What else do you say though? ‘Less money for the feckless!’ Maybe not. Then there is the idea of longer prison sentences, which seems to be backed by no evidence that it will do any good and might be meant just as a dig at David Gauke, who had a more sensible policy. (He’s about, by the way, whipless but waiting.) Still, give Priti Patel her hour in the sun. Sajiv Javid suddenly speaking Punjabi went down well (yes; I’m sure they are very proud of you.)

It all feels like marking time. It is not even a pre-general election rally.

Back to the bars and side rooms, there are keen, enthusiastic councillors and ex-councillors (been there, mate) all anxious to talk at anyone who will listen, hoping they happen to speak to someone influential, and others who actually are influential even if I have never heard of them: I never know anyone and I tend to be left out of the circle.

So, few positive promises. A deadlocked parliament is not such a bad thing usually as it means less opportunity for well-meaning or publicity seeking members to stick their big feet in and get in the way of those of us trying to lead our lives. However after so many decades of idiotic intervention of that sort, some corrective is needed, and that needs a working Parliament.

One diversion has been logging the jokes from the podium, good and bad. I should spare the Lancastrian blushes of one of the most able and promising ministers who dropped the worst joke so far. We’ve a long way to go yet

Maybe the Conference needs a stand-up comedian. Ah – but his is the keynote speech.

Now I almost wish that I were actually at the conference.

Books

By Boris Johnson:

Margaret Thatcher

By David Cameron

By Tim Bale

Brexit

Others

By Rory Stewart:

From the Conservative Conference 2019

The atmosphere is electric, the attendance busy, despite the Commons trying to scupper it, and the events around the fringe are looking significant – they are the place to be seen. Talk is excited, but nervous. Faces leap out of the crowd, reminding you that even Cabinet ministers are just like us and here with us. The thrill can be felt in your fingers. I almost wish I were there.

The star of this show is Boris Johnson, and all will turn on him, in a way that has not been the case for any other Conservative leader since Margaret Thatcher.

So why am I not there? I’ve nothing against Manchester. I quite like the city actually: Cottonopolis, the finest provincial great city that’s not managed to be Edinburgh, the master of South Lancashire. I should be there.

I am not there. Well, for one thing there is the cost of a ticket and of hotel rooms over the conference week. (I once tried booking a hotel room in Cardiff at the same time as a NATO summit and found the prices doubled and more – and that was only for Barack Obama: imagine what Boris Johnson can do.) The ticket price is worth it if you are getting involved. I just suspect that I would be a wandering body unseen at the edge, making journalistic notes for articles I might never write, believing that appearing in this glittering company will be the opening of a sparkling new political career, and leaving again still unnoticed. In the meantime, I have a full-time job and a family to look after.

Actually, I am saying this without having been to the Conference before, so I may be being utterly unjust.

I keep being encouraged to go, and by some serial conference-goers my absence is incomprehensible. It has just never been a priority. They don’t seem to miss me, and I have to work to eat.

All the same, there must be a buzz at being where the power is, or where the power wishes to be (or where the power thinks it is anyway). There would be the chance, I would dream, that I might be able to make my voice heard by asking a pointed question at a minor fringe event, or at one of the social functions I am told are there, but that buzz has never overcome my reluctance. I’m shy, you see.

Now I wish I were there… I have a speech ready too. Then the cold hand of pessimism falls and I expect that I would just be sitting in a hall with my back aching on a hard chair, clapping at scripted speeches and occasionally recognising people I have seen on the telly or passed in a corridor in Westminster. If you’re someone who is likely to be called to give a speech – go. My name always seems to get missed.

I have a brilliant and uplifting speech on Brexit prepared, but I somehow doubt that it will ever see the light of day. Maybe I will publish it here one day.

There is a week to go, and many things will be said and happen, and promises made that our Zombie Parliament will be unable to pass. This is the opening for a General Election campaign that might never happen. (It would be nice if our constituency had a candidate of course. I’ll do it if no one else will, if CCHQ can process my candidate application in time, but there must have had thousands to go through, and as I said, I am used to my name being missed.)

Books

By Boris Johnson:

By David Cameron

By Tim Bale

Brexit

Others

By Liam Fox:

By Jeremy Hunt:

By Rory Stewart: