Category: UK-Current-Affairs

Are we heading inexorably towards a Great Boris Betrayal?

Misgivings that Boris Johnson, across several policy areas, is in the process of betraying many of the promises he made or implied in both his party leadership and general election campaigns, are growing

Note: longer and updated version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Friday 16th October 2020

Straws in the wind?  Maybe.  An overdeveloped sense of cynicism and scepticism on my part, laced with premonition?  Perhaps.  But the past few months have given enough indications to justify misgivings that, on several pressing issues of contemporary policy, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is progressively abandoning the positions on which his General Election campaign was based, less than a year ago.

On immigration, both legal and illegal, election pledges are going significantly unfulfilled. Johnson has failed to withdraw Britain from the UN Global Migration Compact signed up to by Theresa May – a withdrawal which would surely have given us considerable leverage in our negotiations with the EU over our future relationship – and which I suggested in July 2019 should be one of the eight key tests by which we could judge whether as PM, Johnson would delight or disappoint us.

The promised ‘control’ of illegal cross-Channel migration and people-smuggling has not only not materialised, but numerically has worsened. Operationally, it has descended into farce; if deploying an Airbus Atlas A-300M transport to conduct low-level Channel surveillance patrols wasn’t a desperate enough ploy to try and convince a sceptical population that action was being taken, how about the idea of deploying nets to catch boats ferrying illegal migrants? [Applications from unemployed lepidopterists welcome, presumably.]

The points-based assessment system following the Australian model looks reasonably robust – if and when it ever goes into practice – but the legislation faces defeat in the overwhelmingly pro-Remain House of Lords. Meanwhile, attempts to deport illegal migrants and asylum-seekers whose claims have been rejected are regularly being thwarted by ‘liberal’-left open-borders activist human rights lawyers. Yet, in the EU negotiations, possible concessions over free movement and/or the continuing jurisdiction in Britain of the European Courts frequently pop up on the radar.      

If pre-election Boris was suspiciously susceptible to the blandishments of the eco-lobby, then post-election Boris appears in total thrall to the Green Blob. Scarcely a speech passes without some hyperbolic reference from Johnson to how Britain’s economic recovery from Covid19 will be built on a ‘Green’ energy investment and production bonanza, despite its so far unmitigated expense, its continuing reliance on fossil-fuel powered back-up to cope with the intermittency problem, and its still relatively low contribution to the total energy output.

Consider for one moment the Britain in prospect under the rolling Covid-19 lockdowns to which Johnson appears irrevocably committed, despite the increasingly powerful and widespread arguments for a different approach, less damaging to our economy and society.

Whole areas under virtual house arrest. Travel, especially aviation, severely restricted. Rising energy prices. An increasing role for the State in the economy, needing to be financed of course by higher taxes, especially enviro-taxes. Unemployment growing, and business collapsing.

Johnson and Hancock’s policy response to Covid, imposing serial lockdowns in slavish deference almost exclusively to the doom-merchants among the medico-scientific advice available to them – despite a growing body evidence favouring a different, less economically and societally damaging approach – is certainly killing ‘Business As Usual’ for many firms, and their employees.

Tell me how this doesn’t go a fair way towards meeting many of the strident demands of the hard Green-Left, anti-capitalist, eco-totalitarian Extinction Rebellion? And if so, why? Undue influence from the distaff side, perhaps, or……what?      

Johnson’s condescending assurance to newly Tory-voting electors in the Midlands and North, worried about losing their jobs in the developing economic fallout from lockdown, and apprehensive about whether they’ll be allowed to set their relatives at Christmas, that they’ll eventually be able to boil a kettle from ‘renewable’ energy – provided, of course, the wind is blowing hard enough (but NB, not too hard) at the time –  is unlikely to retain their loyalty. And who can blame them?            

The allegedly ‘libertarian’ Boris Johnson has not been much in evidence during 2020’s explosion of leftist Wokery at not only street, but also at political, institutional, media, cultural and academic, levels. He has been reticent, to say the least, in robustly defending free speech, and has largely refrained from unduly criticising egregious instances of corporate Wokeness.

Particularly unedifying was the image of him, bunkered and mute in Number Ten, while hard-Left Black Lives Matter / Antifa protestors violently trashed the Parliament Square statue of his supposed hero Churchill, Johnson finally emerging to comment only after the statue had had to be boarded up for its own protection. We appear to have elected a Prime Minister reluctant to defend our history and heritage when both are under (literally) physical assault.

On Brexit, in recent weeks my colleagues Adrian Hill and Tim Bradshaw over at The Conservative Woman  have done a sterling job of chronicling in detail the twists and turns of the tortuous negotiations with Brussels over Britain’s future relationship with the EU. To repeat many of their arguments would be superfluous, so that here I merely need to summarise and comment.

Despite Boris’ tough talk for public consumption, it’s been possible to detect potential harbingers of compromise and concession. While the EU’s, and Barnier’s, intransigence continues virtually unabated, there has been talk of the deadline being extended to ensure Britain doesn’t leave without a trade deal, within which it would be surprising if some concessions were not made.

Pressure for compromise and concession to ensure No-Deal continues to come from parts of the financial marketsbusiness sectorsand lobby groups. Some of the direst security warnings of Project Fear are being dusted off and regurgitated. Meanwhile, the EU still insists on retaining enforcement powers in any UK trade deal, while rumours circulate that an accommodation will be reached on the continued jurisdiction, after the end of the Termination Period, of the ECJ on business regulation.

On fishing rights, if arguably not the most economically significant issue, then certainly the most politically totemic, can we be sure that a government seemingly powerless to stop rubber dinghies full of illegal migrants crossing the Channel has the determination to resist, whatever it takes, the threatened ongoing predation on our sovereign fishing grounds? The likelihood of compromise to avoid confrontation surely can’t be ruled out.

For a PM who prioritises being liked over being feared and respected, his record of resiling from previous commitments since last December’s election, and his evident susceptibility to pressure, cannot but produce apprehension that potentially damaging last-minute concessions will be made, purely to avoid No Deal.   

On relationships with our natural Anglosphere allies, Johnson has, according to The Times, ordered the No 10 team and key government departments to establish links with the Biden campaign team, citing private polling telling him that Trump is unlikely to be re-elected.

It isn’t hard to see where this could be going. Are they hoping to use the anti-Brexit and EU-favouring Biden’s hostility to a good US-UK trade deal as an excuse to make last-minute concessions to Brussels, and thus be ‘forced’ to concede a BRINO 2.0 that separates us much less from the EU?

On the other hand, if Trump does win, he’s unlikely to thank Johnson for cosying up to Biden in mid-campaign, and will be less inclined to give us a good US-UK trade deal. This, of course, can be also be used as the excuse for making last-minute concessions to Brussels and thus retaining a BRINO 2.0 that separates us much less from the EU.

All this will inevitably have electoral consequences. I warned about it on 7th October, but mainstream media commentators are now cottoning on to the prospect of Johnson’s Red Wall crumbling fast.

As Rachel Sylvester points out in The Times, backbench pressure from Tory MPs worried about retaining their seats is starting to crystallise. Johnson’s apparently cavalier attitude towards the travails his lockdowns risk inflicting on the North can only revive the tropes about the ‘Conservatives’ being solely a party for the affluent South, predicts Nick Cohen at The Spectator.

Seldom in modern political history can such a newly acquired electoral advantage have been so recklessly and needlessly squandered in so short a time. Whether it’s deliberate, accidental, or, as Mary Harrington argues persuasively over at UnHerd, Boris hasn’t recovered from Covid and, notwithstanding his colourful ‘I’m as fit as a butcher’s dog‘ metaphor, is actually suffering from Long-Covid, leaving us effectively leaderless, is a moot point.  

However,  I don’t believe Johnson cares overmuch about the potential electoral impact of all this on his party.  I suspect he’s discovered that,  in contrast to becoming PM, he doesn’t very much like actually being PM, because the job is too much like hard work, often involving having to choose that which he must judge is the least bad from several equally unpalatable and unpopular options.  

Boris, on the other hand, as the only just released new biography of him by Tom Bower reveals, is not so much fundamentally lazy as chronically ill-disciplined and temperamentally disinclined to immerse himself in details. It’s easy to conclude that his innate desire to be popular rather than respected makes him find the stimulus and hyperbole of campaigning in purple poetry infinitely more agreeable than the more humdrum yet far more complicated business of governing in grey prose.

Moreover, he’s allegedly already complaining to friends about money: that becoming PM has left him significantly short of the income he needs to meet his ongoing financial liabilities which are the consequences of his louche, priapic, chaotic personal life. He knows he can make considerably more money as an ex-PM and journalist than as an incumbent PM. Presumably, he’ll claim ‘family reasons’ or something similar at the opportune moment.

I sincerely hope I’m wrong. But I fear we are about to be royally shafted on Brexit, just as Johnson is currently doing on Covid, immigration, Woke-ery and Green-ery. Messing up Brexit could even be his crowning excuse, and his chosen route out.

UPDATE: On Friday morning, in a development as surprising as it was welcome, Johnson announced that, unless the EU fundamentally changed its previously intransigent and uncooperative negotiating approach, Britain would conclude there was no prospect of an acceptable deal being agreed, and would therefore trade on WTO terms with effect from 1st January 2021.

If he means it, and sees it through, then I’ll be happy to admit I was wrong on this point.

However, the worry is that, despite it undoubtedly being the right thing to do, it might not be a statement of irrevocable intent by Johnson, but merely another negotiating tactic by a PM who has already allowed three deadlines he set to over-run without consequence, to be eventually diluted or discarded if it persuaded Brussels to return to the negotiating table in a more amenable frame of mind.

However, the likelihood of that diminished somewhat on Friday evening, when it was reported that our chief negotiator David Frost had told the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier not to even bother coming to London for more talks next week.

Former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith asserted, in The Sun on Sunday 18th November, that ‘Boris isn’t bluffing; that he really will go through with his threat to abandon negotiations and go for WTO on 1st January 2021 unless the EU grants Britain the same comprehensive free trade deal that it granted Canada.

Well, we shall see; after all, Johnson has bluffed for much of his life. Let’s hope this time he isn’t, and really means it.

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The Tory Red Wall is Losing Bricks Fast

Complacent Tories are already behind the curve in recognising increasing disaffection among their new Red Wall voters in the North

Note: longer and updated version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Tuesday 06 October 2020

As ever more draconian, but in practice substantially unenforceable, restrictions were last week imposed by the Johnson Junta on our liberties via Lockdown 2.0, the mooted opposition to them from within the ranks of the supine, compliant, party-before-country, time-serving, careerist lobby-fodder which makes up the majority of the ‘Conservative’ Parliamentary Party collapsed.

The incipient ‘revolt’ on Wednesday 30 September by no fewer than a threatened eighty melted away to a mere seven, on nothing more than a vague promise to consult them in the future.

Although Hancock was reported across most of the media as having promised a Parliamentary debate on the next occasion, this isn’t borne out by his words spoken from the Government front bench as recorded by Hansard:

Today, I can confirm to the House that for significant national measures with effect in the whole of England or UK-wide, we will consult Parliament; wherever possible, we will hold votes before such regulations come into force. But of course, responding to the virus means that the Government must act with speed when required, and we cannot hold up urgent regulations that are ​needed to control the virus and save lives.

This is no concession at all, much less a promise. First, it would apply only in the case of a proposed country-wide lockdown. Second, Hancock pledged the Government only to ‘consult’ Parliament, not initiate a full debate – in contrast to the paltry 90 minutes allocated last Wednesday – ending in a vote which might deliver a Government defeat. Mere ‘consultation’ in no way obliges the Government to any notice whatsoever of the expressed opinion of the House.

Third, Hancock added the rider ‘wherever possible’; it isn’t hard to imagine how the Government would claim it was impossible. Fourth, Hancock reserved to the Government the right to act unilaterally anyway. Yet to this blatant procedural chicanery, barely a squeak of protest was raised, apart from during speeches made by the seven eventual rebels.

Not for the first time, Tory MPs sojourning comfortably in their gilded bubble, banking on the four years before the next election dulling the electorate’s memories, are behind the curve at recognising the disillusion and contempt growing among their erstwhile most loyal supporters at their failure to challenge the Johnson Junta’s headlong embrace of economically and societally damaging illiberal authoritarianism, based on increasingly highly questionable scientific advice.

But outside the MPs’ cocoon, the patience of even their formerly most long-serving members appears to be waning fast. As I found out in microcosm a few weeks ago, from my BFF’s mother, down from the Red Wall North for a few weeks visiting her daughter on the South Coast.

Although Violet (not her real name) is in her mid-80s, she’s impressively – almost frighteningly,  truth be told – switched on politically, with a mind like a razor.  To give you a flavour, last Christmas Day, after I’d been asked by her daughter, my lunch hostess, to keep off politics for the day as her Mum had that year been widowed, she greeted me with –

Mike!  Happy Christmas!  Now tell me: were you still oop on Election Night when that dozy Swinson lost her seat? Wasn’t that great?

She and her late husband were loyal stalwarts, even officers, of the local ‘Conservative’ association in their part of the North until, as she puts it, even they could stomach Cameron and his Notting Hill metropolitan-‘liberal’ dilettante chums no longer and resigned. She even attended the infamous Tory Party Conference of 2002, being in the audience when the then Party Chairman, one Theresa May, scowled at the assembled delegates as only the surly daughter of an Anglican vicar can, and scolded them that they were, in reality, the Nasty Party.

Violet’s opinion of the MayBot is, shall we say, not high. She met May when the latter as Party Chairman visited that particular Constituency Party Association, and she claims never to have encountered anyone so taciturn, uncommunicative, and non-committal, especially when supposed to be boosting morale among the party in the country and rallying the local troops to greater efforts. On the evening May was appointed Home Secretary by Cameron after the 2010 General Election and its subsequent days’ horse-trading with the LibDems, Violet telephoned me with this gem:

Theresa May? Home Secretary? Theresa Bloody May? She’ll be a disaster!

By ‘eck, she weren’t half right, were she?

The Northern constituency Violet lives in is one of those Red Wall seats which went Tory for the first time in decades last December. However, the local council in the biggest town, on the outskirts of which she lives but still just within its local authority area, is solidly Labour, and very concerned not to offend, and even to appease, a large and growing “Asian” population, on which specific demographic it increasingly depends for votes.

That “Asian” community is disproportionately concentrated in one locality and is characterised by large extended families, a high occupancy rate per home, a high degree of social interaction, and a reluctance to abide by local laws and regulations where they conflict with or impede the community’s religio-cultural practices.

Particularly during Ramadan, which this year ran from 23 April to 23 May, much socialising was allegedly prevalent in the local parks and open spaces for the post-sunset Iftar fast-breaking evening meal during the comparatively light and warm evenings, with not only scant regard for social-distancing guidelines but an indulgent, hands-off, non-interference policy from the local constabulary, in contrast to the heavy-handed authoritarianism with which separation was policed in other parts of the country.

So it’s perhaps not surprising that that specific locality emerged as the area’s coronavirus hotspot during the late-March to early-July lockdown. The problem arose and disaffection set in, Violet averred, when it became apparent that, while the remainder of the area was nowhere near as affected by Covid-19 as the hotspot, the entire wider community nevertheless had to suffer the economic and societal consequences.

Interestingly, this is starting to be recognised by some Tory MPs who are arguing instead for finely targeted local lockdowns where, and only for so long as, necessary, in contrast to the Government’s omnipotent-State, blanket-ban approach. But no-one in No 10 is listening.   

To say that the Tory support, which rallied to the ballot-box only ten months ago, is disillusioned with the Johnson government’s response to the pandemic would be an understatement. According to Violet, the blame is being heaped more or less equally on Johnson and his Cabinet for slavishly following ‘the science’ which has turned out to be questionable if not flawed, and on the local council for not making a case for exempting the non-hotspot part of the area from the full panoply of lockdown.

In short, the locals who, for the first time in decades voted for the Tories last December, think the Tories have made a mess of it, and furthermore, have little understanding of, let alone sympathy for, the plight of people in the medium-sized Northern towns. December’s ‘Conservative’ vote was probably a high-water mark never again to be achieved.

Now, it might be tempting to write this off as purely anecdotal; but increasingly it appears to be backed up by empirical evidence.

Regular pollster (Lord) Michael Ashcroft’s recent survey of voter opinion, “A New Political Landscape, has found that, although all isn’t necessarily lost for the Tories, voters have definitely turned.

In the Daily Telegraph, Big Brother Watch’s Silkie Carlo states that last week’s Parliamentary’ revolt’, although it degenerated into a damp squib, ought to be taken by the Tories as a warning that its public is growing restive.

In The Times, the experienced pollster Deborah Mattinson has described succinctly the reservations which newly Tory-voting Northern Red Wall constituents are already having about the direction and style of Johnson’s government, and cautioned that the Party needed to use the opportunity presented by its online party conference to reassert some grip.

At UnHerd, Ed West, author ofSmall Men on the Wrong Side of Historyexplaining the ‘Conservative’ Party’s looming electoral decline from both demography and (ironically) its own Leftward drift, warns that the Tories are running out of both time and voters.

Again in The Times, Rachel Sylvester cautions that the way in which managerial incompetence and economic credibility have both been thrown out of the window by the Tories in their authoritarian approach to the Covid19 crisis will not go unnoticed by their newest supporters who are those likely to be the hardest hit by it.

But the Party hierarchy, in contrast, remains complacently behind the curve. Only days ago, Party Chairman Amanda Milling MP announced with a fanfare that, to show their commitment to, and cement, what they now presume to call their ‘Blue Wall’ seats, the ‘Conservatives’ would be opening a second Party HQ, in Leeds, in 2021. Milling also confirmed that Tory MPs in those seats were to be offered a funding ‘war-chest’ to help them hold on to them.

But if the Tories fail to deliver on Brexit, as they have so far failed – and are still currently failing – to deliver on coronavirus, controlling illegal immigration and defending our history, culture and heritage from the cultural-marxist Woke-Left’s assault on them, it will all be too little, too late, and a waste of time, money and effort. Because the Tories’ Red Wall votes will have gone.

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Brexit-Watch: Saturday 15 August 2020

Beware the siren song of Brussels on Defence and Security issues. Like that of the original Sirens of Greek mythology, it is designed to lure us into a trap.  

Note: Updated version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Thursday 13 August 2020

Choosing four recent Brexit-relevant media articles which, while not necessarily meriting a full-length piece in response, nevertheless warrant a few paragraphs of comment, rather than merely a couple of lines. 

NB: (£) denotes article behind paywall

 

Boxing Clever with the Withdrawal AgreementBriefings for Britain

Last week’s minor furore over the demand made by some Tory MPs for the terms of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement to be re-negotiated produced a response which concentrated overwhelmingly on the political fall-out.

The predictably indignant among the ranks of the Continuity-Remainers and Aspiring-Rejoiners chuntered censoriously about the abrogation of an international treaty.  Others noted acidulously that some of those Tory MPs had themselves voted for the Withdrawal Agreement, a criticism which at least had the merit of being valid.  Few bothered to consider whether the aims behind the demand might be achieved without a formal re-negotiation.

However, there’s more than one way to bake a cake, and regular Briefings for Britain contributor “Caroline Bell” has come up with a different method. Instead of provoking what she accurately describes as the ‘Remainer Undead’ into a fresh bout of parliamentary warfare and judicial lawfare, she shows how a combination of smart domestic legislation, leveraging the ambiguities so beloved of EU agreement-drafters, and adopting a strictly third-country approach in all our dealings with the EU, could achieve the same desired result. 

 

Our sovereignty on defence matters will mean nothing if we are drawn in by EU’s siren songDaily Telegraph (£)              

For those inside the UK Government machine, whether politicians in Westminster or officials in Whitehall, who are determined surreptitiously to keep post-Brexit UK within the EU’s ambit as much possible, the inept handling of both the Covid-19 crisis and the surge in cross-Channel illegal immigration provide a useful smokescreen.

The campaign group Veterans for Britain has long been at the forefront of publicising, not only how the EU’s desire to create a military capability independent of (or as a potential rival to?) NATO remains undimmed, but also how elements within the Ministry of Defence, notwithstanding unconvincing ineffectual protests to the contrary by Defence Secretary (and Remainer) Ben Wallace, continue to beaver away below the radar to make it happen.

The warning from Major-General Thompson is thus timely. He shows how accepting the superficially tempting offer of EU participation in the funding of UK Defence projects invariably comes at the heavy price of inextricable entanglement in an interlocking web of ‘in one automatically means in all’ commitments, which have pan-European political integration, not military or defence effectiveness, as their overriding purpose.

 

Italy and France confirm Euroscepticism is a growing threat to EU’s existence BrexitWatch.org

Making Brexit as difficult as possible for Britain must seem almost literally an article of faith to the Europhile member-state leader or Brussels Eurocrat who sees it, not as a friendly country merely opting democratically for a different relationship, but as an irredeemable heretic deserving of punishment for resiling from the supranationalist religion.

Such uncompromising dogma, however, can be counter-productive.  The more harshly the British apostate is treated, the more likely it is that other member-states may start to question whether their best interests are served by remaining part of such a doctrinaire, illiberal and vengeful institution.

Recent polling data reveals signs of this starting to happen, especially in Italy – which perhaps isn’t surprising, given the suffering its population and economy have had to endure under successive Pro-Consuls appointed by the Brussels Imperium over the heads of the leader which Italian voters chose – but also in France, which is more surprising, despite the widespread disillusion with ostentatiously pro-European Macron.

Notwithstanding the continued, albeit softening, reluctance to contemplate leaving the EU or the Euro, the poll finding that over 40 per cent of both French and Italian people believe Britain will actually prosper by leaving the bloc is a potential challenge to their leaders’ ongoing Europhilia.  It could explain why Macron is being so uncooperative and intransigent about curbing the illegal cross-Channel migrant-smuggling.

 

Farage predicts that what Brexit will look like on 1 January 2021 will anger Leave voters – Daily Express

Following the warning to MPs that Britain should not realistically expect to achieve more than 60 per cent of its negotiating objectives in the talks of our future trading relationship with the EU, Farage’s prediction cannot be easily dismissed.

In previous articles in this Brexit-Watch series, I have expressed reservations at Boris Johnson’s stated intention to get more personally involved in the Brexit trade talks, not only because of his notorious lack of attention to detail and justified fears about his desire for a deal at all costs, but also because of his erratic and diminished performance since recovering from his bout of Covid-19.

So the news a few days ago, that David Frost would stay on as Brexit negotiator, in addition to his new role as National Security Adviser, if a satisfactory deal is not agreed by September, was, on the face of it, reassuring. Except that it was Frost who had delivered that ‘no more than 60 per cent of negotiating objectives’ warning to MPs.

Is it possible that Macron is ramping up his intransigence on curbing cross-Channel migrant-smuggling, knowing the extent of public anger that the Johnson Government’s apparent inability or unwillingness to prevent it is creating in Britain, to incentivise the UK into making concessions on fishing rights and continuing EU financial obligations, in return for more French maritime ‘co-operation’?  If so, and the over-eager Johnson falls for it, then Farage may well turn out to have been correct.

Update: on Friday 14 August, the Financial Times hinted strongly that such a stratagem might indeed be on the cards.  This was so predictable.  It isn’t especially hard to see what Johnson’s tactics might be here.

Via deliberate inaction, let the anger about the failure even to reduce, never mind stop, the illegal cross-Channel immigration traffic build up to such a pitch that making concessions on continuing French or EU fishing access to UK territorial waters will seem an acceptable price to pay in return for a French promise to curb the boats.  Which of course would not be kept.

They take us for fools.

 

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The Partisan Mainstream Media, and Bias-by-Omission

‘Tory rapist’ allegation: how hypocritical, virtue-signalling, point-scoring MPs and a selectively reporting, biased, partisan media combined to undermine further both the presumption of innocence and the rule of law.

Note: longer and updated version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Sunday 09 August, 2020

Despite a plethora of stiff competition, ranging from Covid-19 to the post-Brexit trade talks and beyond, there really was only ever going to be one contender for the lead story on which our fearless Fourth Estate turned its forensic, objective and impartial gaze last weekend.  And that was the Conservative MP arrested in connection with an alleged sexual assault.

Although it ought to be axiomatic, I suppose that in the current atmosphere of febrile, intolerant, censorious Wokery where silence is automatically deemed to be conclusive evidence of acquiescence, I must for the avoidance of doubt declare right away an absolute abhorrence of any kind of unwanted sexual assault, or even attention.  Particularly in the workplace context of boss and subordinate, it’s often not so much an expression of sexual interest as an exercise of presumed status or power.  So, for the record, if the arrested Tory MP is eventually found guilty by due process of law, I want him both expelled from the Commons and imprisoned.

But equally, that should in no way impede the expression of legitimate reservations about how his arrest has been reported and subsequently treated.

Tory ex-minister arrested over rape‘ splashed the Sunday Times, notably omitting the word ‘alleged’ from its headline, and helpfully informing us firstly, that the man was an ex-minister and secondly, that the alleged assaults took place in Westminster, Lambeth and Hackney – both of which might be interpreted as narrowing the possibilities down somewhat.

From the Sunday Telegraph‘s headline, we learned, further, that the man was a ‘senior Conservative‘ – whatever that means these days – and was in his 50s.  It then took me only approximately 10 minutes to establish there are 89 male Tory MPs currently ‘in their 50s’, i.e., born between 3rd August 1960 and 2nd August 1970.  Without laboriously checking the parliamentary careers of each, to anyone interested in contemporary politics, it was obvious just from the list of names that not all were ‘former ministers’ by a long stretch.  One was, therefore, probably looking at a shortlist of no more than 30 possibles.  So much for anonymity.

Already, the Times, the Guardian, and the Financial Times were either demanding that the Tory MP in question be named, suspended, have the whip removed, or even sacked, or going further by additionally criticising both the party (and by extension the Government), for not having done so immediately.

This pressure intensified over the following days. ‘Row grows over failure to suspend Tory MP accused of rape‘, protested the Times.  ‘Tory MP arrested on rape charges should have whip withdrawn‘, scolded the Guardian, purporting to report the words of Labour MP Jess Phillips. ‘Tories criticised for not taking sexual misconduct claims seriously‘, chided the Financial Times. 

On Monday 3rd August’s edition of BBC Newsnight,  the ever-willing rent-a-quote Phillips let rip.  Living up to her uncomplimentary – but not entirely inaccurate – ‘Midlands Motormouth’ sobriquet, she condemned the Tories’ failure to name and suspend the accused MP, and declared Parliament was not doing everything it could to make itself a safe workplace.

Chief whip defends lack of action against Tory MP accused of rapefollowed in the Guardian on Tuesday 4th August.  As did the predictable call from ‘a coalition of women’s charities and unions‘ for the accused MP to be suspended while facing investigation, on the grounds that failing to do so represented ‘another example of minimising violence against women‘.

Then, on Wednesday 5th August, it was the turn of the Spectator‘s Isabel Hardman, with an implied criticism of the Tories’ parliamentary whips as ill-suited to deal with disciplinary issues like misconduct, particularly of a sexual nature.

Finally, on Saturday 8th August, the Times‘ Esther Webber contrived to add a bit more unsubstantiated innuendo to the pot, suggesting that the Conservative whips’ office had been aware of concerns relating to the alleged behaviour of the arrested MP dating back to 2010 – which would, of course, narrow the range of possible arrestees down even further, in excluding by definition anyone not elected before 2015.  So much for anonymity.     

However, there’s one rather large elephant in this particular room-full of indignation; one which both protesting politicians and harrumphing hacks alike overlooked, or perhaps more likely, chose to ignore.  It was hinted at early on in the imbroglio by Tory MP Michael Fabricant, but seemed to gain no traction whatsoever.

It is that, on 10th February 2016, the House of Commons itself voted to change its procedures so that any arrested MP would not be named or otherwise identified (which either suspension or removal of the whip would undoubtedly do).  Moreover, the proposition was passed with only one vote against (the then Labour MP and now recently ennobled John Mann), which implies that among those voting for the change was – yes, you’ve guessed it – Labour’s current Shadow Minister for Domestic Violence, one Jess Phillips MP.

Although the Commons’ decision to abandon naming an arrested MP appears superficially to confer on MPs rights which are not available to others, it’s easy to see the logic behind it.  Once the arrested MP was named and suspended, in such a relatively small workplace, the identity of the alleged victim would quickly emerge.  Is that what the ardent namers and shamers in Parliament and the Press want?  Or are they happy to throw the victim’s anonymity under the bus for the sake of some political point-scoring?  So much for anonymity.

Nor should it have gone largely unremarked that some of the MPs who were shouting the loudest for the accused Tory MP to be named and shamed are also usually among the first to argue for anonymity for alleged rape victims in other circumstances.  The double standards on display are nauseating.   

Yet not only did the Newsnight presenter not challenge Phillips with this inconsistency, much less suggest that, by condemning the application of the very procedure for which she had herself voted, she was guilty of both rank hypocrisy and blatant political opportunism.  From what I can see, in the reportage contained in all the supposedly ‘quality’ press articles linked to above, that 2016 decision of the Commons itself, to prohibit the naming of an arrested MP is mentioned nowhere.

To assume that every single political reporter or lobby correspondent involved in the production of all this material would have either been unaware of that 2016 change or had forgotten about it, especially on such a clearly sensitive subject, seems to be stretching credulity beyond its limit.  It’s hard, therefore, to dispel the suspicion that it was specifically and deliberately not mentioned, because that would have diluted or negated the narrative which the media wished to convey.  In other words, bias by omission.

Not that the media alone are deserving of criticism.  The ‘Conservative’ Party, which currently appears to be frightened of its own shadow, reacted by giving its now-familiar impression of a rabbit frozen in the headlights of an oncoming truck, and allowed the opportunistic ‘Liberal’-Left a virtual monopoly of comment. 

Where was any immediate statement to the media by any Tory MP that, with a police investigation under way, the matter was effectively sub judice, and that excessive both public speculation and premature assumptions of guilt could jeopardise a successful prosecution?  Were I the accused MP’s lawyer, I would have been screen-grabbing every tweet issued taking his guilt as a given and demanding his head, and compiling a portfolio of them to present as evidence prejudicing the possibility of a fair trial.

Why was four days of Trappist silence allowed to elapse before Boris Johnson managed to deliver a semi-apology for his party neither identifying nor suspending the arrested MP

Where, also, irrespective of the details of the present case, was any forceful riposte that the non-naming of any arrested MP is specifically the direct consequence that 2016 House of Commons decision for which many of the zealous self-appointed Pestfinders-General themselves voted?  Not to mention a sharp reminder that the presumption of innocence still applies until a guilty verdict by a jury?   

Which leads to another point worth making: that the importance of upholding the presumption of innocence is so readily either disregarded or dismissed is an increasingly disturbing feature of the Woke witch-hunt.

Ever since the advent of the #MeToo movement, no longer are the finger-pointers content to wait for due process to take its course; they demand instant condemnation and punishment of the presumed guilty perpetrator based on (often one single) accusation alone. Woe betide he or she who objects, especially if facing the likelihood of a viciously aggressive social-media pile-on. 

Is it too fanciful to suggest that the prevalence of the New Puritanism is conducive to the mainstream media feeling it can abandon impartial and accurate journalism for partisan activism with impunity?

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Brexit-Watch: Sunday 26 July 2020

Avoiding funding the EU’s ransom payment to Turkey for its blackmail over ‘refugees’, and avoiding the blame for any breakdown in Brexit talks.

Note: This article was originally published at The Conservative Woman on Saturday 25 July 2020

Choosing four recent Brexit-relevant media articles which, while not necessarily meriting a full-length piece in response, nevertheless warrant a few paragraphs of comment, rather than merely a couple of lines.

NB: (£) denotes article behind paywall

 

UK sets October deadline for post-Brexit trade deal as Michel Barnier warns agreement ‘unlikely’ Daily Telegraph

Setting a deadline for a deal and then extending it is seldom a good negotiating tactic.  It signals to the other party that you’re reluctant to walk away and might well be more desperate for a deal than you indicated, and thus encourage them to harden their stance.  Even at the start of this week, the virtual opposite was being trailed, and was being received favourably.

The UK’s negotiators have repeatedly, and rightly, made the point that, until Brussels, epitomised by Barnier, accepts that Britain will agree to nothing which is incompatible with its unshakeable determination to be a fully sovereign and independent country, economically and politically, then a deal will simply not be possible.

That this needs to be emphasised again and again is shown clearly by Barnier’s intransigent labelling as ‘unacceptable’ the denial of access to UK territorial waters to EU fishing vessels unless by arrangement, and his peremptory demand that any agreement must present ‘no risk’ to the EU fishing industry

These are the remarks, not of a realistic and practical negotiator, but of a blinkered ideological supranationalist. As long-time Brexiteer Sir John Redwood recently put it to talkRADIO: the EU had got used to the UK buckling at every point where the EU objected, and are finding it difficult to adjust to the idea that they can’t boss us around any more.

So while it was somewhat disturbing to see the report of the UK being prepared to offer emergency talks next week if discussions broke down without a deal by his weekend, it was also mildly reassuring to see that the prime purpose of this appeared to be, not to make any further concessions, but to ensure that the blame for any irretrievable breakdown, and thus the ending of Transition without a deal, would be laid squarely at the feet of the EU.    

Frost’s recent statement on the latest semi-extension in the headline-linked article goes a long way towards confirming that the principles intrinsic to the UK’s future as an economically and politically independent country need to be honoured in full in any agreement reached, and that the EU’s proposals so far do not do so.

That is good, but it’s also the bare minimum.  The only reason to pursue this course should be to show beyond doubt that any breakdown of talks leading to a WTO-based Brexit is the fault of the EU’s intransigence, and not the UK’s.  In no way, especially, should it be used as a means of making last-minute damaging concessions just because Johnson wobbles and loses his nerve.

 

UK taxpayer will pay millions after EU increases funding for Turkey Facts4EU

Throughout the years Britain was a full member of the EU, we got used to the occasional revelation of how we were, via various accounting or budgetary tricks,  paying over to Brussels either more cash than the Government wished the voters to know about, or funding schemes and causes which the electorate would undoubtedly have objected to, had they known.  One might have presumed, though, that after we had formally left the bloc and were merely in the Transition phase, such sleight-of-hand might have ceased.

Apparently not.  Because the UK appears to be on the hook for a contribution to the EU’s latest example of paying the Danegeld in the futile hope of getting rid of the Dane, in the shape of a €485 million top-up to the €6 billion already committed to Turkey as bribery for its holding alleged ‘refugees in Turkey instead of allowing them to enter the EU via Greece.

As Facts4EU points out, this liability arises primarily out of the free movement allowed between most EU member-states under the Schengen Agreement, once access to ‘borderless Europe’ has been gained.  But not only have many of those member-states arbitrarily suspended their adherence to Schengen by closing their national borders during the Covid19 crisis; the UK has never been a part of Schengen at all.  So why are we continuing to fund this in effect blackmail at all?  And why does the fact of it appear to be so assiduously obscured?

 

Possibilities for Early Harvest Measures in a UK-US Free Trade Agreement – Global Vision

Although they have somewhat slipped below the radar in comparison to those with the EU, the bilateral UK-US negotiations for a post-Brexit trade deal have continued.  As the end of Transition draws closer, and with it the chances of no agreement with the EU being concluded, then the more urgent it becomes to prevent the non-EU UK from potentially being adversely affected by US retaliatory tariffs against the EU for breaches of WTO rules.

Notwithstanding the low likelihood of a comprehensive UK-US FTA being concluded before the November US elections, there does appear to be significant scope for a preliminary agreement, or at least memorandum of understanding, which will exempt the UK from being caught up in a US-EU tariff war harming its aviation-related advanced manufacturing industry and its brand-unique exports like Scotch whisky.

In contrast to continuing to hold out an olive branch to an intractable Brussels by setting a new October deadline, our trade negotiation expertise should be shifted to look westwards across the Atlantic towards our allies, not south-eastwards across the Dover Strait towards our adversaries.

    

This EU summit fiasco is the final proof that we need a clean-break Brexit – Daily Telegraph (£)

Amid all the spin and self-congratulation about the EU’s agreement on its €750 billion’ recovery fund’ emerging from Brussels and its media cheerleaders in the early hours of last Monday morning, too few were focusing on its intrinsic further power-grab away from nation-states and by inference, from their electorates.

For the first time, the EU has acquired the power, via its unelected Commission, to tax member-states’ citizens directly, over the heads of their elected governments. For the first time, it can borrow against the EU budget to raise substantial funds on capital markets and also direct how they are allocated.

In the Telegraph, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard rightly describes it asbordering on totalitarian in constitutional terms, mostly unchecked by meaningful parliamentary oversight.  In contrast, the money numbers, once the detail is unpicked, are so relatively small as to render it of limited effectiveness. The devil lies in the detail of who has control of it.

As Liam Halligan shows in the headline-linked article, were it still a member of the EU, or even in extended Transition, the UK as a major net contributor would be liable to pay billions of UK taxpayers’ money into this bottomless pit, on top of the £300 billion we’re already having to borrow to ameliorate the costs of the Johnson Government’s disastrously self-induced Covid19 recession.

We’re getting out just in time, which is why offering an extended October talks deadline for anything other than purely cosmetic purposes would be so potentially dangerous.

 

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Who Best to Spy on the Spies?

The background to the Lewis-Grayling Commons Intelligence & Security Committee chairmanship imbroglio, and some possible reasons for what really lies behind it.

Note: this article was originally published at The Conservative Woman on Friday 17 July 2020

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

It’s one of the oldest questions in the world, relevant in dictatorships and democracies alike.  Literally meaning “Who will guard the guards themselves?“, it voices the perennial dilemma; who can best be trusted to watch over those whom we in turn trust to watch over us so as to keep us safe?

Now, you might think that someone who successfully ran an undercover operation to get elected as Chair of the House of Commons Intelligence and Security scrutiny committee – thus defeating in the process the reliably compliant stooge whom the Government had hoped to shoehorn into the post – without anyone from the Government knowing or its parliamentary whips finding out, thereby demonstrating both a fine understanding of intrigue and the ability to keep a secret, would possess the ideal qualifications for the job.

Boris Johnson’s Government, however, disagrees.  Because its reaction to New Forest East Conservative MP Julian Lewis’s securing the chairmanship of this important and influential scrutiny committee, by secretly nominating himself and then caucusing with Opposition who subsequently voted for him, was petulantly to accuse of him of duplicity and even withdraw the Tory whip, thus effectively sacking him from the party.

What could have prompted such a fit of childish pique?  Resentment at having been outmanoeuvred, coupled with a sense of entitlement that such a key chairmanship ought axiomatically to be in government hands? Perhaps. Exposure to public view of what was clearly a massive failure of parliamentary management?  Maybe.

Or was it frustration because the unsuccessful government nominee, Chris Grayling, widely known as “Failing Grayling” for being unusually accident-prone and for an unimpressive record both as Transport Secretary and Justice Secretary, but who was also Boris Johnson’s campaign manager in his party leadership bid, had been impliedly promised the chairmanship as a reward?

It can’t be a matter of much dispute that Lewis is eminently more qualified for the role than Grayling, who has been criticised for his lack of experience of Intelligence and Security matters by even his fellow Tory MPs.  In contrast, Lewis, in the manner of Right-leaning long-standing backbenchers whom the Conservative Party’s ‘liberal’ hierarchy finds embarrassing and routinely keeps hidden on the back benches, has tended to make Defence, Intelligence and Security his specialist subject.

Lewis is also a confirmed Eurosceptic and Brexiteer, which may also be a clue as to why his chairmanship seems to be so discomforting to the Party hierarchy, as will be explored further below.

Julian Lewis

In the immediate aftermath, the ‘Conservative’ Party’s anger shows no sign of abating. The much-diminished Jacob Rees-Mogg has accused Lewis of ‘playing ducks and drakes’ with Labour MPs – a curious charge if Number Ten still denies any intention to shoehorn Grayling into the Committee chairmanship – and yesterday refused to rule out the Government blocking Lewis ascension to the role.

Johnson has been warned by senior Tory backbench MPs not to try and remove Lewis from the chairmanship of the Intelligence and Security Committee, or even from membership of it. Clearly, their rebellion earlier this week against the Government for not going either far enough or fast enough on the removal of Huawei from our telecommunications infrastructure has emboldened them.

In the meantime, Lewis has provided his own version of events, stressing that-

  1. the chairmanship of the Committee is a parliamentary appointment and not within the gift of the PM:
  1. he did not give any undertaking to support Grayling: and
  1. contrary to Number Ten’s denial of any interference, it evidently preferred to have Grayling as Chair of the Committee, as Lewis himself received a text asking if he would vote for him.

And as he wryly observes, if it wasn’t the Government’s intention to parachute Grayling as its preferred candidate into the chairmanship, then its decision to deprive himself of the Tory whip for not voting for Grayling looks like a massive over-reaction.

2020.07.16 Julian Lewis statement

So what’s going on?

Well, Eurosceptic and Brexiteer Lewis, I suspect, would be far more likely as Chair to probe and interrogate the Government on the security and intelligence implications of any continuing below-the-radar co-operation and tie-in to with the EU.  And that, of course, might lead to similar probing on any continuing below-the-radar tie-up with the EU’s developing Defence Union and the PESCO mechanism.  Perhaps Grayling, having been rewarded for running Johnson’s successful leadership campaign, could have been trusted to ensure the Committee did not enquire too closely into such matters?

Grayling had also been thought to be much less likely to pressure the Government for an early public release of the 2018 report on alleged Russian interference in British democracy, (although personally, I’ve always suspected this allegation to be yet another desperate attempt by the anti-Brexit, Continuity-Remainer faction of Britain’s political and media establishment to delegitimise both the vote for Brexit and those of subsequent general elections confirming it).

However, the fall-out in that direction from his failure to secure the chairmanship has already started.  In what’s possibly a pre-emptive move, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab yesterday accused the Russian State of hacking UK vaccine research and attempting to influence last December’s general election.

Theoretically, the ‘Conservative’ Party might possibly try to thwart the Lewis chairmanship of the Intelligence and Security Committee, on the spurious grounds that for such a pivotal appointment to be held by an Independent MP not affiliated to any party, much less the governing party, is inappropriate.  In doing so, however, it would risk making itself look even more petulant and dictatorial, as well as making others wonder just what it might be trying to hide.

Its best course would be for the Government to accept a self-inflicted defeat, for MPs to press for the restoration to Lewis of the whip, and for the party console itself that a key Commons committee was in the hands of the MP best suited to the job.

Homo scit exterriti custodes spectemus – only a man who knows guards can watch the guards.

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Brexit-Watch: Friday 17 July 2020

Beware the resistance of the Whitehall Continuity-Remainer Blob  

Note: this article was originally published at The Conservative Woman on Thursday 16 July 2020

Choosing four recent Brexit-relevant media articles which, while not necessarily meriting a full-length article, nevertheless warrant two or three paragraphs of comment, rather than merely a couple of lines.

NB: (£) denotes article behind paywall

 

It’s time to agree to withdraw from the Withdrawal Agreement Centre for Brexit Policy

The relief and praise in equal measure which greeted Boris Johnson’s ‘renegotiation’ of the seemingly renegotiation-immune EU Withdrawal Agreement were justified – but only partly.  Despite the modification he achieved, its numerous flaws which his predecessor Theresa May signed up to out of either dullard ignorance or Remainer perversity persist.

Notwithstanding the current negotiations being conducted on our future trading relationship with the EU, provisions in the Withdrawal Agreement relating to, inter alia, the continued applicability of EU law, customs/border procedures, and Defence/Intelligence/Security issues, will, unless changed, effectively ensure the EU will continue pulling strings in Britain for years to come.

The Centre for Brexit Policy’s comprehensive report, on how various areas will continue to be adversely affected by Brussels’ malign influence, support its conclusion that the Withdrawal Agreement as currently structured cannot be allowed to stand, and must be replaced.

Interestingly, this proposal is being supported by one or two of the former Brexit Party MEPs who defected back to the ‘Conservative’ Party before the last election because they disagreed with the former’s position that the Withdrawal Agreement was fundamentally deficient and needed wholesale renegotiation, not modification. Depressingly, though, it’s difficult if not impossible to imagine Johnson’s inept and struggling government conjuring up the political courage even to address this, let alone do anything about it.

 

Michel Barnier tells Mark Francois that Brexit is pointlessDaily Telegraph (£) 

‘Resistance is futile’ seems to be the subtext of Barnier’s message.  Now, to be fair, Tory Brexiteer MP Francois is a bit of a buffoon – although one who attracts far more odium from his detractors than does the equally buffoon-ish Euro-fanatic Guy Verhofstadt – but I suspect he’s achieved the essentially mischief-making purpose of his original missive to Barnier, by provoking precisely the kind of haughty, ponderous, humourless response that so typifies the Eurocrat grandee.

Barnier has once again unwittingly revealed firstly, his total inability to understand how any country could possibly not want to remain part of the institutionally anti-democratic pan-European supranational project for which he evinces a near-sacerdotal reverence, and secondly, the EU’s continuing negotiating intransigence that sees him still insisting, even at this stage, that the UK must abide by the cherished ‘level playing field’ on EU (over)-regulation. It’s a bit rich of him to be accusing the UK of a ‘lack of respect’.

He shows why continuing negotiation is in effect a dialogue of the deaf, and why we would be better off cutting our losses, announcing that no further purpose is served by persisting in the charade, and devoting all our resources to preparing for the end of Transition without an agreement in place.

 

UK faces extra €2 billion EU pensions bill – Euractiv

To which demand the first response should surely be the question: why?

When the UK agreed to pay roughly €39 billion in a combination of severance and contribution to future liabilities under the original Withdrawal Agreement, included in that amount was approximately €9.75 billion for future EU staff pension liabilities. However, the EU’s estimate of those specific liabilities has suddenly jumped by about 22 per cent in one year, as a result of which we are being asked to stump up an extra €2 billion.  If that can happen to one element of our severance settlement, it raises the question of whether it could also happen to others, and whether a one-off payment somehow has the potential to morph into a never-ending commitment.

Given that the Withdrawal Agreement, for all its faults, was signed, why are we liable at all, when we have already legally left? And why was the amount not capped in the negotiations at the original €9.75 billion, to prevent us from being gouged for further increases? We should have no hesitation in either refusing, or securing a valuable concession elsewhere as the price of agreeing.

 

Brexiteers be alert – Whitehall is still trying to scupper a real Brexit – Briefings for Britain

Accustomed as we should be by now to the machinations of the irredeemably Europhile Westminster and Whitehall Remainer Blob which, four years on from the 2016 EU Referendum, continues to try and thwart or at least dilute its outcome, the Blob’s capacity to open a new front in its ongoing war against democracy should never be underestimated.

If you can’t stop it, review it” comes straight out Sir Humphrey’s (or perhaps Sir Mark’s before his welcome but overdue departure) playbook.  With the Department of Trade and Industry fully engaged in actually negotiating new, non-EU, trade-deals, the timing of the announcement of a review into the DTI’s modelling of trade deals looks anything but coincidence.  The suspicion of bureaucratic sleight-of-hand is heightened by the appointment, as chairman of the review, of an economist described as ‘close to very vocal Remainers‘.

The membership of the new agricultural commission to advise on food standards and trade policy looks similarly compromised, being stuffed full of the same people who, pre-Referendum, were prominent in scaremongering about produce standards and food imports in the event of leaving the EU.

Additionally, talk has emerged of the DTI joining the Department for International Development (aka Overseas Aid) in being merged into the Foreign Office, long regarded, and with reason, as the epicentre of Whitehall’s Remainer Resistance,  and with a dismal record of achievement when it was responsible for trade prior to the formation of the DTI.  How Sir Humphrey would approve!

Johnson, or at least Cummings, should be all over this like a rash, killing it stone dead. That the former isn’t, given the profound disappointment he is turning out to be as PM, isn’t surprising.  That the latter isn’t is worrying.  Is another Chequers-type BRINO in the making?

 

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Prêt-à-Parler?

It’s hardly surprising that Parler is suddenly growing markedly in popularity as an alternative to Twitter in micro-blogging.  Here’s why. 

To anyone active on political social-media, the increasing frustration and anger in recent months at Big-Tech’s more and more overt censorship, in various forms, of conservative, classical-liberal and libertarian opinion should come as no surprise.

It’s been there in subtle ways ever since the 2016 votes for Brexit and Trump.  But it’s in the last three months or so that the acceleration of Twitter in particular into a cesspit of predominantly Remainer, Left and Woke grievance and vituperation seems to have exploded, especially with our own December 2019 election, COVID-19, the imminence of full and final Brexit, and the explosion of hard-Left Black Lives Matter/Antifa violent protest.

To give just a few of the more prominent examples, Twitter has taken upon itself to start what it disingenuously describes as ‘fact-checking’ Trump tweets which are political rhetoric or opinion rather than factual; but it doesn’t do the same to his political opponents.  It’s permanently banned, among others,  Father Ted creator Graham Linehan for tweeting ‘Men aren’t women’; but the militant trans agenda gets a free pass.

Earlier this year Twitter suspended Tory backbench MP Sir Bill Cash, who has been involved with David Keighley of News-Watch on a judicial review of the BBC’s adherence to the impartiality requirements of its Charter.  No reason was given for the suspension, imposed for allegedly ‘violating Twitter’s rules’, although the platform refused to say which rules had allegedly been violated or how. (The suspension has since been lifted.) 

For the record, I find some of Trump’s tweets counter-productively crass, and I’ve never been a particular fan of the Linehan who has a record of bullying people he disagrees with on Twitter anyway; so there was a fleeting touch of schadenfreude at him being hoist with his own petard when Twitter suspended him.

But whether one agrees or disagrees with the political opinions of all three is immaterial.  The real test of our belief in free speech is whether we uphold and defend it, not just for the people and speech we do agree with, but also for the people and speech we don’t agree with.  On that criterion, Twitter’s actions against Trump, Linehan and Cash were not only authoritarian and illiberal in their own right; they were moreover hypocritical and biased, in that it indulges and tolerates equally questionable speech from their opponents. 

Nor is the censorship confined to prominent people.  Small-C conservative, classical-liberal or libertarian tweeters report being subjected to straightforward follower attrition, the more insidious shadowbanning whereby Twitter seems to restrict the reach of accounts and make them hard to find, and artificial lowering of the number of Retweets or Likes on tweets popular with their followership.

Personally, Twitter relieved me of about 1,000 followers almost overnight in late 2018 for reasons that were, and remain, unclear.  Since then, my rate of follower acquisition has been a fraction of what it was before that reduction, and I’ve now lost count of the Direct Messages from people telling me that Twitter had arbitrarily unfollowed them from me so that my tweets just disappeared from their feeds, and that it had been very hard for them to find me again in order to re-follow.

Below are the monthly changes in my own followership over the past 15 months.  Notice the abrupt change in the last three months, just as concerns about Twitter’s flagrant left-bias seem to have really accelerated exponentially?

Twitter Follower Attrition Table

The fascinating metrics from the analytics, though, are that visits to the account’s profile are roughly 20% down (because it’s being made difficult to find?), while the number of engagements/impressions is substantially up.

Twitter also seems to be promoting left-viewpoint tweets up the order on subject or hashtag searches, too. Although I’m no fan of Boris Johnson or his ‘Conservative’ Party, this is especially noticeable on major set-pieces like Prime Minister’s Questions or a significant speech or intervention by a conservative politician.

Then, just in recent days, Twitter has taken its Woke speech-control to a whole new level, issuing the following edict on the forms of NewSpeak which in future it will promote (and no doubt soon police and enforce) on its platform.  Presumably our days of using “Whitehall” as convenient code and shorthand for all the Government ministries and departments in central London are numbered.

Twitter Engineering NewSpeak

Sometimes if feels as though Trump’s Executive Order modifying Section 230 of the US Communications Decency Act 1996 so as to designate the social media giants as publishers rather than the mere ‘platforms’ they claim to be – the effect of which would be to bring them under the scope the First Amendment’s prohibitions on the restriction of free speech – can’t come into full legal effect fast enough.     

Anyway, sharing the increasing frustration at all this, just under two weeks ago, and like many others then and since, I joined the alternative platform Parler, with its absolute commitment to non-censorship and free speech.  Reportedly, it had 300,000 new sign-ups from UK Twitter users alone over the weekend of 21st-22nd June, growing from 1 million to 1.5 million users in only a week

Although the Parler user interface is still somewhat clunky, and the platform could benefit from a few improvements, it’s nevertheless perfectly functional. A big plus the 1,000-character limit, which is much better than Twitter’s 280.  That often means only one post rather than what, on Twitter, would require a two or three tweet thread. Although I know of one or two users who have junked Twitter accounts with over 25,000 followers to move across completely, most still have both running in parallel for the moment.

In contrast to Twitter’s shadowbanning and sometimes outright censoring of conservative views, not to mention steady erosion of followers, the early Parler impression is so far living up to its free speech reputation.  Although an initial surge obviously isn’t representative, acquiring 1,000 followers in only 10 days is nevertheless a satisfying contrast to the last 18 months on Twitter.  Many familiar, reciprocal-follow faces from Twitter are there; one of the pleasures of the last two weeks’ experience has been finding a new raft of them every day, including some of social media’s best ‘climate-change’-sceptics.

The more supercilious elements of the left-‘liberal’ elite Establishment’s mainstream media, conveniently ignoring the number of centre-right and even centrist MPs and journalists using the platform, are already trying falsely to portray Parler as merely a safe-space echo-chamber for ‘far-right’ ‘hate speech’, though evidently based on a highly selective and partisan representation relying on only one or two examples.  It suggests that Parler might have them worried.

You will find there, not only me, but some of my fellow-writers at The Conservative Woman:

  • TCW itself as @TheConWom
  • Co-Editor Kathy Gyngell as @KathyConWom
  • Karen Harradine as @KarenHWriter
  • Andrew Cadman as @Andrewccadman
  • and Yours Truly as @LibertarianRebel

Come and join us there on Parler.

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Brexit-Watch: Monday 29 June 2020

Brussels still hankers after British fish

Note: this article was originally published at The Conservative Woman on Saturday 27 June 2020

Choosing four recent Brexit-relevant media articles which, while not necessarily meriting a full-length article, nevertheless warrant two or three paragraphs of comment, rather than merely a couple of lines.

NB: (£) denotes article behind paywall

 

Frost outlines the areas he won’t sacrifice as he faces BarnierDaily Express

It’s reassuring that our chief Brexit negotiator David Frost is again insisting that, on three specific policy areas which can be grouped under the generic heading of sovereignty – the law, the courts, and fishing – there can and will be no concessions to Brussels.  As always, however, the devil is in the details.

In the context of the article, ‘the law’ means the ‘level playing field’ issue under which Brussels, for its own self-serving protectionist reasons, wants Britain to guarantee to maintain a business-regulatory regime equivalent to the EU’s.  Needless to say, the UK’s Continuity-Remainer big-business lobby has latched on to this and is pushing it, although thankfully with apparently limited success.

An independent legal regime and judicial system is a key manifestation of sovereignty.  Yet the EU has continued to try and bind the post-Brexit UK as closely as possible within the pan-EU corpus juris and thus keep domestic business-regulation germane to our EU exports under the jurisdiction of the integration-biased European Court of Justice.  Again, Frost’s repeated refusal to give ground on this is welcome.

The fishing issue is dealt with below, but the potential fly in the ointment in all this is Johnson’s increasing personal participation in the talks. His making disadvantageous concessions just for the sake of a deal, either out of his habitual distaste for fine detail or a desire to appease opponents of No-Deal purely for domestic political reasons, can’t be ruled out.  Hopefully, though, even he realises his stock has fallen so low because of his Government’s mis-handling of the COVID19 outbreak that he can’t afford to be seen to botch Brexit by fudge as well.

 

Britain still top dog in Europe for financial services investment – City A.M.

Well, that wasn’t in the anti-Brexit fanatics’ Project Fear script, was it?  Britain remaining the European country most attractive for foreign direct investment (FDI), suffering the least decline in inward FDI of all European countries in 2019, and beating the rest of Europe as the most attractive destination for financial services FDI post-COVID19 by a margin of 40% to a mere 8%. 

It isn’t hard to see why. Firstly, there’s the EU’s inherent ideological commitment to imposing regulatory harmonisation rather than accepting regulatory equivalence, and the fact that London is already pre-eminent in financial services, which tends to create a clustering effect.  Secondly, as I’ve previously pointed out, there’s the EU’s intention to introduce a disastrous pan-EU Financial Transactions Tax, already tried by Sweden but abandoned because of its innate flaws, distortions and disincentives. Why would any financial services business pick Europe over London?  

 

Recovery: we must embrace this opportunity for systemic trade renewalGlobal Vision

Major exporter Alastair MacMillan is undoubtedly in saying that the urgent need for recovery from the self-inflicted damage caused by the Johnson Government’s panicked shutdown of the economy requires trading flexibility and innovation, not an extension of the Brexit transition period.

In fact, extending the transition period would not merely be unproductive but counter-productive. As our own economy struggles to recover, we would continue to be liable, both for current EU contributions and any additional ones the EU demanded as part of its own COVID19 recovery package, without any input into determining either their scale or qualification criteria.

That the EU much dislikes Britain now negotiating its own trade deals as an independent country, and is institutionally incapable of thinking innovatively on matters such as tariff definitions, is glaringly evident. We should be actively resisting any such obstructionism, and pushing for maximum flexibility at every stage.

 

The EU is attempting to capsize post-Brexit fishingGet Britain Out

There appears to be an attempt by Brussels to effectively retain control over access to UK territorial waters, under the spurious guise of conservation of a species whose rising numbers no longer merit it to anything like its previous extent.  Considering the degree to which the EU’s fishing industry is dependent on such access, this looks like a blatant subterfuge, and should be dismissed out of hand.

The scale of leverage Britain enjoys over that dependence is such that it’s being suggested it should be partly traded away in return for major EU concessions on ‘rules of origin’ trade rules. Given that the EU has a history of either accepting concessions while offering non-equivalent ones in return, or of demanding even more, that too should be approached warily.  Time and time again Brussels has shown that it is neither honest broker nor reliable interlocutor.

Rightly or wrongly, fishing and the sovereignty of its national territorial waters are symbolic issues, by which Johnson will be judged whether he has either succeeded in extricating Britain from the authoritarian, rapacious maw of the EU or capitulated to it, however disingenuously the surrender would be spun.  We would be unwise to bet against the latter outcome.

 

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Brexit-Watch: Friday 19 June 2020

Barmier from Barnier with a jibe at London

Note: this article was originally published at The Conservative Woman on Wednesday 17 June 2020

Choosing four recent Brexit-relevant media articles which, while not necessarily meriting a full-length article, nevertheless warrant two or three paragraphs of comment, rather than merely a couple of lines.

NB: (£) denotes article behind paywall

 

London should not be a European financial hub after Brexit, says Michel BarnierTelegraph (£)

This smacks more of either petulant obstructionism or even desperation from Barnier, rather than a credible threat.  However, it’s rather disturbing to see some UK commentators appearing to fall for it, by suggesting we should sacrifice both what’s left of our EU-decimated fishing industry and autonomy over our sovereign territorial waters in return for financial services.

I believe that this is both a false dichotomy, and an empty threat.  Compare the amount of EU-related financial business going through London with that going through, say, Frankfurt, which is the only even possible alternative. There’s no comparison.  And in any event, the EU’s intention to introduce a disastrous pan-EU Financial Transactions Tax would act as a massive disincentive for business to move from London to Frankfurt.

On this, Bottler Boris needs to hold his nerve and hold the line. 

 

Any more Brexit delays would be an affront to democracyDaily Express

In focusing on the nuts and bolts details of the negotiation process, it’s easy to overlook the underlying electoral politics.  Arguably, they mattered less while the Tories were continuing to post polling-leads in double digits, despite misgivings about their mishandling of the COVID19 crisis.  Now, however, with Keir Starmer providing more effective opposition to a visibly struggling Johnson, and with widespread reservations over the Tories’ timidity over exiting lockdown, they start to matter more.

Against this background, the Centre for Brexit Policy has released its new paper entitled Do Not Delay Brexit – The View from the Red Wallwhich backs up its Chairman Owen Paterson’s Express article by showing the extent to which the Tories’ December 2019 election landslide was largely due to ex-Labour voters in the Midlands and the North trusting the Conservatives to deliver a genuine Brexit.

The significance of this, of course, is that, with the opinion polls now tighter, and the proponents of an extension to the Brexit transition period trying to leverage the Coronavirus outbreak as justification for it, a failure to complete the implementation of Brexit on time will rebound adversely on the Tories electorally.  They would do well not to rely on the next election being 4½ years away and think they can take their recently acquired new electorate for granted.   

 

The Economic Case Against Extending the Brexit Transition –  Briefings for Britain

The case against extending the Brexit transition period isn’t only political.  As economist Julian Jessop points out, any theoretical adverse impact from the completion of Brexit on time, even based on exiting on WTO terms if a Free Trade Agreement cannot be reached, is dwarfed by the economic impact of COVID19 and the tremendous costs Johnson’s government has incurred in trying to mitigate it.

As Jessop also points out, the global economic downturn from COVID19 has also slashed borrowing costs still further, to the point where some gilts yields are negative.  This means that any additional Government borrowing as a result of completing Brexit on time may actually have been made cheaper by the Coronavirus crisis, apart from becoming relatively less significant when set against the extent of COVID19 borrowing as a whole.  There is simply no convincing case for deferring completion of Brexit on economic grounds.

 

Free trade is the key to Britain’s success. We can’t let our farmers and fishermen hold us backThe Times (£) 

The fact that this article is far more about farming than it is about fishing, which gets a mention only in regard to a possible trade-off against financial services, made me wonder if the Times‘ sub-editors took a small liberty with the headline to garner more clicks, fishing being such a touchstone issue.

Whether the case or not, the premise for that trade-off is questionable; firstly because the EU’s ability to hold the UK and City of London to ransom over financial services is limited, as I explain in the first link commented on in this article, and secondly because Brussels is now reported to be backing down on access rights to British waters anyway.

The validity of an argument linking farming with fishing, as though they were but two sides of the same coin, looks suspect in any event. Even taking into account the self-sufficiency case for, and the anti-protectionism case against, giving farming and agriculture special treatment, the two aren’t the same.  Fishing isn’t just a trade issue; given that it involves the ‘ownership’ of national territorial waters, it’s far more a sovereignty issue that it is merely one of trade and commerce, and if Johnson has succeeded in forcing Brussels to accept that it is ‘off the table’, that can only be a good thing.

 

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