When I woke up this morning I spotted a Daily Mail headline for an article by Chris Pleasance which stated “Nigel Farage vows return to front line politics to attack Theresa May’s ‘fraudulent’ Chequers plan” My initial reaction was a positive one as since 2014 when Nigel was last elected as an MEP for the South East of England which includes Sussex where I live but excludes London where according to twitter Chris Pleasance lives, his actions have been almost entirely outside of the European Parliament and whether he has been campaigning for us to leave the European Union which contains the Parliament he is supposed to be part of or campaigning for Donald Trump to persuade the British Tory Government to offer a job and Peerage to this ex leader of UKIP, or trying to create a broadcasting career the one place he has been almost entirely absent from is the EU Parliament. The public money he receive as an MEP has not been returned so he clearly is happy to be paid to be an MEP but his involvement in mainstream politics is non existent because he stays away from the Parliament so often.
The twitter biography for Chris Pleasance is “Senior foreign news reporter with Dailymail.co.uk. All views my own. Retweets not endorsements. I didn’t write the headline” So perhaps because Chris lives in London and is a foreign news reporter, he does not realise that Nigel is an absentee MEP whose role as an MEP if he chose to fulfil it would place him strongly in mainstream politics. Some of our other MEPs achieve this very well, people like Daniel Hannan, Catherine Bearder and Keith Taylor. However reading the article by Chris suggests that what he means by mainstream politics is a return to national campaigning which once again will remove Nigel from his constituency and his Parliamentary role for most of the time so in fact this is the opposite of mainstream Politics. Now to be fair Chris does say on his twitter account that he did not write the headline, but on the first lines of the article he states “Nigel Farage will return to front line politics to try and kill off Theresa May’s Brexit plans, he announced last night. The former Ukip leader is to travel around the country attacking the Chequers proposal which he describes as ‘fraudulent’.” So this suggests that not only does Chris Pleasance think that national campaigning is mainstream politics, but so does Nigel Farage!
The photograph which the Mail has included in the piece (as above) is of Nigel attending a session at the European Parliament back on 13th March so he does occasionally show up when the subject interests him. In this particular case the debate was on the guidelines on the framework of future EU-UK relations. However it is clear that along with Chris Pleasance, Nigel Farage who is elected by literally 100’s of thousands of voters in the South East every five years, does not consider his current well paid role one of mainstream politics which is deeply concerning to people like me who he is supposed to represent!
Its tough for the 8 million people in the South East whose UKIP MEPs are led by Nigel Farage who spends most of his time developing his career and never responds to his constituents requirements. However when he makes such a abusive comment to the members of the British Medical Association it is time for him to be held to account! These men and women are Doctors. They are General Practitioners and Surgeons and a multitude of specialisms. They are the people who have dealt with the very man who is now calling them a disgrace. For example in 2015 during the General Election campaign in Thanet and following an air accident according to the Daily Express ‘Mr Farage said he has been in “horrible” pain in recent weeks, but his surgeon “has put [him] back on the straight and narrow”. He said: “I am now going twice a week to the hospital and am now feeling back to the old me.” The Ukip leader has been prescribed sleeping pills, muscle relaxants and physiotherapy as he continues his fight to win a seat in South Thanet.’
This morning two headlines from two pro-Brexit MPs appear to be showing a bit of a difference in terms of where we are at as a nation. To be fair the pro-Brexit newspaper Telegraph is bound to be a bit tougher and a bit more positive than the I News which I suspect is a bit more balanced in its approach, indeed so may argue it is pro-remain. The reality however is neither of the two men is speaking positively about Brexit. Iain Duncan Smith whose piece is mostly well hidden behind a pay wall starts off with:
“It has become clear that Project Fear – the scare-mongering campaign carried out by those who want to remain in the EU – is alive and well. We are threatened on a daily basis that we could end up with “no deal”, “crashing out” or facing a “cliff edge”. Almost every question anyone who supports the vote to Leave is asked is couched in these dire terms, as though they are hard facts and the rest is supposition. Hardly a day goes by without another scare story about the UK failing to get medical isotopes, facing a shortage of medicines, or British aircraft not being allowed to land in the EU. These examples show exactly why we are being misled. Continuing access to radioactive isotopes, used to…”
So perhaps it is reasonable to assume that rather than being defensive and arguing against remainers, some of whom are in Iain’s constituency, his piece could explain what exciting opportunities lie ahead of us and how we will thrive. After all we are now a mere 228 days away from the point at which we are no longer part of the EU. It is perhaps understandable that there are some people feeling nervous about this change and even opposed to it, after all 16.7m people voted to remain. Rather than criticising these folk IDS could take a positive proactive approach and rewrite his article with a few positives at the outset, assuming of course that there are some. However his colleague and pro Brexiteer Minister Grayling appears to be suggesting that the way forward is not going to be easy and he is not suggesting we will thrive, particularly if we achieve a no deal:
‘Mr Grayling told BBC Radio 4: “None of us want no deal, none of us are working towards that. I think it would be damaging for both this country and the EU. “We’ve got to redouble our efforts to make sure we reach the right agreement this autumn and that’s why Theresa May has brought forward the Chequers proposals. “They are not easy to sell in this country as we know. They are difficult for Brexiteers to accept.”’
Perhaps IDS and Chris Grayling could get in touch and agree how to sell the proposal to us as citizens and then begin to do so in a positive manner, or perhaps it is time for a bit of a reality check that focuses on the alternative way forward (or as IDS would see it, the way backwards).
The daily promotions of the Telegraph newspaper on facebook rarely catch my eye, beyond the noisy nonsense from Boris Johnson. However in the last few days a couple of columns did and so I used my weekly free access to the paper to read one of them by Norman Tebbit. I regret that I was unable to read the other but the refusal to pay for access to a paper that is full of such extreme nonsense means I was prevented from discovering exactly what Giles Fraser wrote in his column beyond the introduction and opening paragraphs which explained he was comparing Brexit to the Reformation of the Church in the UK. A metaphor that opens up the question about the Independence of Scotland and in due course Wales and Northern Ireland. This is because the reformation in the UK and break from the Church in Rome, led in due course to separation from the new Church structure which is now known as the Church of England of the Baptists, Methodists and a myriad of other church structures including the one I am part of. If Giles is right about the parallel it is only a matter of time before we see regional independence within England too! However back to Norman Tebbits piece on Monday which was headlined:
If humans keep flooding Earth with our waste, she may soon take her revenge
The reality is that as someone who writes a weekly column I know that sometimes the headline does not fully reflect the whole column and certainly it was the case here. Norman did write a short, superficial section about ecological matters, but that is not why I think he needs to be retired from the House of Lords. It was his response to the earlier column by Boris that displays why he is not suited to sit in Parliament, just as Boris is not fit for a Ministerial role. To be fair this is not a shock as Tebbits comments are often abusive and indeed he is doing the very thing that Boris must have hoped for. However he is paid by us to be a statesman, not the writer of incendiary ideas. He wrote:
“I have known Boris Johnson (and his weaknesses) for a very long time, but my original support, upon reading his comments on the wearing of burkas, has not changed a scrap – despite all the fires of coals brought down on his head. Quite the opposite indeed. Like Boris, I do not think women should be forced to wear the things by bullying menfolk nor by the law. Like Boris I think they are absurd garments and do make the wearer look like a letterbox. Indeed it is the critics of Boris who risk looking absurd, not least the Scottish Conservative leader, Ruth Davidson, who plumbs the very depths of absurdity by comparing the burka to the crucifix. As a Telegraph reader wrote, you cannot hide a suicide vest or a bomb under a crucifix.”
Putting to one side the idea that both Johnson and Tebbit and many of the commentators who have participated in this debate need to be educated regarding the difference between Burka/Burqa, Niqab and Hijab. The point is that whatever people wear around their heads, the hiding of explosives does not depend on such a factor and there is no correlation between any religion or ethnicity or nationality and people who are a threat to society. Today as we acknowledge the 20th Anniversary of the Omagh explosion when a car packed by Irish Catholic terrorists with explosives killed 29 and injured over 200 people of various religious views and none, it is important to remember that the use of explosives in the UK has a long history. In 11 weeks time we will celebrate the failure by the man from York who with his Catholic friends carried barrels of explosives into the basement of the Houses of Parliament 413 years ago in an attempt to kill the Protestant King. The use of commercial lightweight drone in Venuzuela 10 days ago carrying 2lb of explosives and the UK Governments use of a military plane size drone to kill a British citizen in Syria in 2015 and the use of a perfume bottle to conceal a substance originally developed in Russia, Novichok all demonstrate that death and injuries are not limited to any one mechanism or group of people. Instead all of these examples point towards the need for society to ignore focusing with fear on a group of people or their clothing or their technology or their religion and instead focus on how to achieve peace in our communities and across the world. Indeed if we are to achieve peace we will need to work with other nations such as the 27 in the EU that we plan to leave in a few weeks to the delight of Tebbit, Fraser and Johnson. Let us hope that the Government manages to secure some form of ongoing connection with the security based elements of the EU or else our nation may become under a much greater sense of threat from people wishing to harm us from both within and outside the UK!
Posted in Church Teaching, Community Safety, Education, Environment, EU Referendum, Justice Issues, Parliament and Democracy, Policing, Scottish Referendum
Tagged Boris Johnson, Burqa, Crucifix, Giles Fraser, Niqab, Norman Tebbit, Omagh
As Ministers in the current UK Government it is encouraging to see you both using twitter to call for “all parties to prevent civilian casualties and to cooperate with the UN” over the crisis in Yemen. As MPs and Ministers you will both be aware that you are supposed to be accountable for your actions and this means more than waiting until the next General Election. Our nation sells weapons to Saudi Arabia which are widely known to be used in the Yemen crisis and have been used to kill civilians and yet we are a bit reserved when it comes to challenging our Saudi ‘allies’ with how they are dealing with this. I could not agree with you more that we need to get all of the groups involved in the Yemen conflict together in the context of the UN. However as a weapons supplier, we are one of the parties concerned and so we should begin the process and make the sale of any future weapons dependent on the Saudi Government taking part in the discussions and being held accountable for their actions. It is Government Ministers who need to follow through on the tweet so perhaps the two of you could make a start today?
The indications are growing of attempts by members of various political parties to form a new one that will somehow solve all of the problems that their current party does not address. Perhaps they will call it the Heineken party and then some people will have the confidence to vote for party candidates irrespective of who they are and what they are personally capable of. One of my own concerns about this is not that I think that any of the existing political parties are working well, but rather the democratic system lacks the mechanisms for us to hold our representatives to account and instead we get to vote for a party which has selected the prospective MP for our constituency. Many party members are so committed to the success of their party that they fail to understand that local people deserve the best candidate, not the one who satisfies the internal political machinery. It seems hard to imagine what would happen if all of the political parties with their defined rosettes were disbanded and instead every candidate and every elector was asked to take part in a questionnaire to identify ones politics. That instead of choosing a yellow, red, blue or green rosette that we were obliged to spend a few minutes reading what the candidates actually believed in. This would then give us a much stronger connection with our representatives who when they got to Parliament would then spend several days working out who they were willing to collaborate with and in due course which group of collaborators was the largest and therefore capable of running the country. Every time a set of challenging decisions was about to be made the need for MPs to consult their constituents if they had not already made their views clear would be so refreshing.
Clearly such a diverse and complex way forward in Parliament is hard to imagine, after all the binary party arrangement which was formed in the 16th Century only began to change 118 years ago when the Labour Party was formed to enable ordinary people’s views to be heard in a coherent manner. It is only in the last few decades that a diverse range of parties has begun to appear in the House of Commons. Even most Councils are dominated by political parties, however in many parish and town Council settings the individuals willing to stand and make decisions on behalf of their neighbours do so without any party agendas. I have met a range of town and parish councillors and it is clear that many are much more open to new ideas and finding creative solutions to problems in their communities than Councillors and MPs whose parties set out the criteria and parameters within which they should operate. In one sense this explains how the occasional attention seeking rule breaking individual such as Boris Johnson can emerge with such vigour. However just as the people behind the Heineken idea are from the main parties, so occasionally the parties do demonstrate a willingness to look outside of their own comfort zones.
There was an attempt in the early stages of the coalition government to require a non party based approach to the role of Police and Crime Commissioners. Although this was then rejected by MPs who believe that Party dominance is the way to improve society, Sussex MP Nick Herbert, one of the designers of the post stated six years ago “Police and crime commissioners will be important public servants …. Although police and crime commissioners may stand for a political party, the public will expect them to represent all the people in their area impartially, without fear or favour…. commissioners are there to serve the people, not a political party or any one section of their electorate” and the coalition manifesto stated “We will introduce measures to make the police more accountable through oversight by a directly elected individual, who will be subject to strict checks and balances by locally elected representatives”
It became clear early on that these checks and balances were superficial and lacked any teeth and this was confirmed a couple of days ago by Labour Councillor Emma Daniel who was part of the Police and Crime Panel that is supposed to hold Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne to account and tweeted the above statement. Perhaps what our nation needs is not yet another new political party but a way of diminishing the power of all political parties through some form of meaningful electoral reform!
Posted in Brighton & Hove, Justice Issues, Parliament and Democracy, Police & Crime Commissioner, Policing
Tagged Conservative Party, Democratic Reform, Emma Daniel, Katy Bourne, Labour Party, Nick Herbert, Police and Crime Commissioner
As the Brexiteers in our Government keep on explaining, the British public made a decision nearly two years ago to leave the EU and on that basis their decision was final and there is no going back. Indeed on 30th July 2018 the Prime Ministers spokesman stated that there would be “no second referendum in any circumstances”. Yet this is inconsistent with the views previously expressed of many of the people who today would criticise her if she did a U turn on such a matter. As Jacob Rees Mogg stated to the Sun newspaper six weeks ago on the evening before the second anniversary of the referendum ‘Rees-Mogg said there was no reason for another referendum, and said the chances of a bad deal which left Britain in a “semi-vassal” state were now low. He said this was in part because Mrs May would be unable to secure a majority in the Commons for such an arrangement.’ This is despite his speech in 2011 stated clearly that a referendum after the negotiation is completed would make sense.
As John Redwood stated in his blog a few days ago on 6th August “I have never supported two referendums on whether to Leave or Stay within the EU, contrary to some misleading stories. Years ago before the Conservative party agreed a simple Remain/Stay referendum there was a proposal to ask the people if they wanted to renegotiate our relationship, to be followed by an In/Out referendum. In the end the government held a renegotiation without bothering with a referendum to approve such a renegotiation.” The truth is that the renegotiation which he refers to was carried out by David Cameron and because it did not have the backing of the public, and because David Cameron is not capable of dealing with difficult situations, he failed to achieve anything meaningful in that process.
Way back on 6th September 2016 the views of David Davis were made clear by the Mail Online which reported “David Davis last night flatly rejected ‘anti-democratic’ demands for a second EU referendum or for MPs to hold a vote allowing them to block the referendum result. The Cabinet minister for Brexit told MPs the public had delivered its ‘instructions’ to Parliament and pro-Remain MPs must get over it.”
Of course Redwood, Davis and Rees-Mogg are clearly entitled to change their minds, to reflect circumstances which their party in Government shapes. However surely they cannot with any integrity deny the chance for the British public to also change its mind as the details of the proposed departure emerge. This is even more relevant for us as we are not members of the party that has been carrying out the negotiations and so do not have their level of ‘allegiance’ to that Government. One of the additional items in the speech by David Davis on 19th November 2012 is “My preference would be that we should remain within the Customs Union of the EU” which seems to reinforce the extent to which politicians are capable of changing their minds, like the rest of us.