Tag: Crony-Corporatism

The Tory Party’s Phoney War on Woke

Boris Johnson’s ‘Conservative’ Government has no intention of actually fighting against the Woke agenda; merely the intention of looking like it’s fighting against the Woke agenda which its substantive actions, belying its words, suggest it either supports or at least does not much oppose

Note: Extended and updated version of the article published at The Conservative Woman on Monday 15 February 2021.

If you went only by the headlines, you might be tempted to believe that the ‘Conservative’ Party – following the justified criticism of its leadership’s reluctance even to criticise, never mind condemn, the explosion of intolerance, censoriousness and malign identitarianism which, after festering below the surface for several years, finally exploded into the open amid culturally and racially oikophobic street violence last summer – had finally resolved to tackle the Woke virus.

It now planned, we were recently told, to prevent anti-statue iconoclasm by strengthening the protection of statues from the depredations of Town Hall militants and Woke-Warriors. We won’t allow people to censor our past, asserted Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick on 16th January – although whether his proposal to make them obtain planning permission and consult the local community before doing so will deter the heritage-destruction fanatics is a moot point.

Not to be outdone in signalling Tory purported anti-Woke credentials, next up was Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, endorsing a ‘Conservative’ backbench MPs’ initiative to spike the Town Hall militant Woke-ists’ guns by re-naming, with the names this time of Victoria Cross recipients, the already and only recently re-named Diversity Grove and Equality Road in Perry Barr, Birmingham.

Then, in what the Government clearly wants to be perceived as a major escalation of its ‘War on Woke’, the Sunday Telegraph of 14th February reported Dowden as summoning the leading heritage bodies and charities to a summit at which he intended to entreat them ‘to defend our culture and history from the noisy minority of activists constantly trying to do Britain down’. Reinforcing that was to be a promise from Education Secretary Gavin Williamson of a ‘Free Speech Champion’, with powers to defend free speech and academic freedom on campuses, accompanied by the warning: ‘Colleges or student bodies that try to cancel, dismiss or demote people over their views will be sanctioned’.

Given the extent to which Britain’s historic and cultural institutions have been captured by the Left, some ineffectual bleating from a hand-wringing Dowden is hardly likely to persuade the heads of leading heritage bodies and charities summoned to his exalted presence to change their ways. As the Daily Telegraph‘s Simon Heffer points out, their Achilles heel is their dependence, to a greater or lesser extent, on State funding, and threatening to curb it would concentrate minds, but the Government looks nowhere near ready even to contemplate such a drastic step, let alone carry it out.

Nor are the sanctions on universities apparently to be wielded by Williamson likely to achieve much. Compensating speakers who have been de-platformed or disinvited due to Woke intolerance by either the student body or the faculty does not immediately come across as a particularly effective deterrent. Once again, there appears no desire to hit the universities in the wallet, where it would hurt most. As Conservative Home Deputy Editor Charlotte Gill rightly says, legislation will help, but ministers themselves need to speak out more.  

Now, the re-naming of some Parry Barr thoroughfares after Victoria Cross recipients rather than ‘Diversity’ shibboleths isn’t at all a bad idea per se; but are these kinds of, frankly, peripheral and comparatively trivial placebos and palliatives from those political wet lettuces Jenrick, Dowden and Williamson really all we can realistically expect from the Tories’ so-called ‘War on Woke’?

Sadly, it might well be.  Because, below the radar, and on several fronts, the ‘Conservative’ Party hierarchy appears to be not merely not opposing, but either passively accepting or even advancing, the ‘Liberal’-Left’s pernicious, divisive Woke agenda. Consider a few examples.

Take the issue of the sustained Woke assault on free speech, specifically that manifested via the de-platforming and/or cancel-culture now widespread among both academic and student bodies on university campuses. Any readers still doubting its extent and severity should either listen to the New Culture Forum‘s recent panel discussion podcast on it, or watch it on YouTube.

Last month, Tory backbencher David Davis introduced a Private Members’ Bill to place a legal duty on universities to uphold and promote free speech on campus, but which is unlikely to become law, owing to ‘lack of Parliamentary time’. Davis is right to address this issue; but why did it have to fall to a private member to introduce legislation to protect and uphold something as fundamental as free speech?

Where was the allegedly ‘Conservative’ Government which included in its last Election Manifesto a commitment to strengthen academic freedom and free speech in universities? Was it fearful of incurring the wrath of the Woke Mafia? It’s a poor reflection on the Johnson Government’s now apparently only lukewarm commitment to free speech that legislation to uphold and promote it in universities, of all places, has to be via a Private Members’ Bill, and not a Government initiative.

Furthermore, the Woke assault on free speech is neither confined solely to the higher education sector, nor is it a fringe issue of concern only to civil liberties fundamentalists or free speech absolutists. A recent Savanta-ComRes opinion poll found that as many as 50 per cent of Britons feel freedom of speech in the United Kingdom to be under threat, and that only 12 per cent of the population believes that people have greater freedom to speak freely now than they enjoyed five years ago.

Moving on to the minefield of gender and trans rights, the ‘Conservative’ Party now appears to be bent on cancelling Women as a species. As victim of the militant trans lobby Maya Forstater explains, the Government’s own Parliamentary Bill covering maternity leave for Ministers now refers to ‘pregnant persons’.

Presumably, alternatives to the now clearly discriminatory and non-‘inclusive’ expression ‘women’, were rejected on Woke grounds. ‘Persons who menstruate’ must have been ruled out as obviously transphobic in deference to the vicious Woke onslaught on J K Rowling for satirising its use as a substitute.

Using persons with wombs’ would have self-evidently excluded, and thereby demeaned, women of child-bearing age who’d had to undergo a hysterectomy, and women past the menopause and therefore unable to conceive; and that’s before even starting to consider how to tiptoe round the bear-trap of describing any cis-women now identifying as non-binary on a spectrum of genders running into three figures.

Ironically in view of all of this, the Equality Act 2010, which remains in force, refers to both pregnancy itself and pregnancy discrimination as something which happens to, erm, ‘women’.

Among the most sinister and damaging manifestations of the burgeoning Woke self-righteous intolerance is the expansion of censorship by the partisan hyper-‘Liberals’ of Silicon Valley Big-Tech. Even as its platforms leant more and more towards covert, then overt, shadow-banning and even outright banning, much of the Elite-Establishment with an interest, whether genuine or feigned, in promoting the Woke Cult and silencing or demonising opposition to it has been content to outsource censorship to the private sector, but has thereby created a tyranny.

So it’s curious that, despite the worthy ostensible aim of preventing online harm, the Johnson Government is apparently content to partner with Big-Tech to regulate online speech even more. Did it occur to Media, Digital and Culture Secretary Dowden that, given its recent track record, Big-Tech is likely to exploit the freedom given it by filtering out not only child-pornographic, terrorist and genuinely racist material but also by censoring legitimate conservative opinion and classical-liberal challenge to the Woke-Left agenda? Or is he relaxed about it? 

The Tory leadership has also capitulated to the BBC, abandoning not just abolition of the iniquitous ‘licence-fee’, but even the idea of decriminalising non-payment of it, while at the same time allowing it to be increased. It’s only just over a year ago, remember, that Johnson’s ministers were banned from appearing on the Today programme because of its unremitting bias.

As if sustaining the mainstream media’s foremost propagandist of Über-Woke in its regressive, coercive funding model wasn’t bad enough, the Government has additionally favoured the ‘fantastic BBC‘ (© B Johnson) with responsibility for providing online lessons to children during lockdown. The result was predictable; it took a concerted backlash from parents to get its there are over 100 genders‘ teaching module withdrawn. Not much evidence of a Tory Government ‘War on Woke’ there.

Finally, and arguably most egregiously of all, Johnson’s Government appears to be going out of its way to virtue-signal its enthusiastic alignment with two of the most widespread and potentially calamitous Woke shibboleths of our time – Green-Left ‘climate-change’ and its new first cousin, the World Economic Forum’s Great Reset programme to exploit the Covid-19 pandemic so as to bring about the comprehensive re-vamping of all aspects of our societies and economies under a globalist, supranationalist, technocratic totalitarianism.

This is well illustrated by three pairs of linked tweets by Johnson and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, starting with the ritual obsession, which all senior British politicians have, of being seen publicly to be among the first to have telephone conversations with their counterparts in a new US administration.

There’s little intrinsically wrong in this rather tedious, perhaps even puerile, willy-waving aspect of the diplomatic game. Notable on this occasion, however, is how Johnson and Raab each take the opportunity afforded by it to shoehorn what, contextually, are almost forced and contrived references into it, linking pandemic recovery with the advancement of the Green eco-agenda – including those now almost obligatory buzzword-phrases ‘green and sustainable recovery‘ (Johnson), and both ‘tackling climate change‘ and the now almost universal ‘build back better‘ (Raab).

Next, their unnecessarily effusive, even cloying, welcomes for Biden’s rush, within almost hours of his inauguration, to sign the USA up to the twin Green mantras of the costly but ineffective Paris Climate Agreement, and the impractical and ruinously expensive drive to achieve the chimera of ‘carbon’ neutrality by 2050.

For a government supposedly committed to a ‘levelling-up’ agenda, allegedly intended to benefit people in the relatively economically disadvantaged Midlands and North, burdening them with much higher heating and power bills to pay for unreliable and subsidy-dependent Green energy seems a strange way of going about it. But here, once again, are the buzzwords beloved of the Great Reset’s adherents. ‘Net Zero by 2050‘ and ‘work together for our planet‘ from Johnson; ‘Paris Agreement‘ and ‘tackle climate change‘ (again) from Raab.

Lastly, their congratulatory tweets on New Zealand’s National Day to its Prime Minister, that darling of the globalist ‘progressive’ ‘Liberal’-Left, Jacinda Ardern.

This isn’t a controversial message in itself – New Zealand is, after all, a member both of the Commonwealth and the Anglosphere’s Five Eyes security alliance – but once more, we see the chance taken to insert some key WEF/Davos Great Reset platitudes. From Johnson, we get’ make the world a greener….place‘; from Raab (yet again) ‘to combat climate change‘; and, intriguingly, from both, the now near-ubiquitous and sinister ‘build back better‘.

It’s not as if the use of this phraseology is unique to either politics, or to Britain; the same mantras, the same’ build back better‘ platitudes, keep coming from as far afield and diverse sources as Trudeau in Canada, from Macron and Merkel at a virtual leaders’ summit, from Biden in the USA, from corporate CEOs meeting at environmental foundation gatherings, and even from Kensington Palace. Coincidence? I think not.

One wonders to what extent all this has now morphed from being mere empty virtue-signalling into a form of subtle code; a method for national political leaders to signify to each other and to the elite of the supranationalist crony-corporatist globalist oligarchy that, despite having, for domestic political reasons, to offer reassuring but obfuscatory bromides to their electorates, they are in fact entirely on board with the Great Reset agenda, and can be trusted to further it in their own countries.  

Only just over a year ago, Johnson had banned his ministers from attending the annual Davos schmooze-fest of the great and the (not so) good of the globalist oligarchy. Now he appears to be taking, not merely instructions, but even dictation from them.

Pinpointing the reason for the Tories’ apparent reluctance to counter the Woke agenda in any way other than cosmetically is harder than citing examples of it. Over at UnHerd, Ed West quotes former Tory MP Ed Vaizey, part of the Cameroon/Notting Hill metro-‘liberal’ tendency which still holds sway within the Party, in enthusiastic support for the Woke agenda. West persuasively suggests that driving this is a naïve gullibility, which fixates on its superficial but bogus claim to be motivated solely by altruism and equity, but is blind to the illiberalism, intolerance and authoritarianism with which it tries to enforce its orthodoxy.

A week ago, I insinuated that Johnson’s ‘Conservatives’ were only pretending to fight the Woke agenda at the domestic, socio-cultural level. The way in which their proposed post-Covid greater state-interventionism and Green eco-socialism manifest the accelerating conflation of the Green ‘climate-change’ agenda with the Covid-19 recovery agenda under the overarching aegis of the WEF/Davos Great Reset suggests that, when it comes to the Woke agenda at the internationalist, economic level, they aren’t even pretending to.

In the New Culture Forum‘s panel discussion podcast and video discussion referenced earlier, Professor Jeremy Black of Exeter University posits that there is an argument currently prevailing within Johnson’s Government against engaging in any kind of what they call ‘culture war’, the idea being that that’s what characterised Trump, that it was a mistake, and that they, therefore, must not be seen to be emulating either it, or him.

The fact that we’re already in a culture war that’s being prosecuted aggressively by the ‘Liberal’-Left and hard-Left Culture-Warriors seems to have escaped their notice. As the Henry Jackson Society’s Dr Rakib Ehsan states, Britain cannot be blind to the threat to social cohesion presented by extremist far-Left revolutionaries via faux-‘progressive’ movements like Black Lives Matter and Extinction Rebellion.

Particularly striking over the past year has been the sheer number of Britain’s civic organisations who, it now appears, already had personnel in place in their key positions, primed and ready to adopt the Cult of Woke in a big way – the culmination, presumably, of The Long March Through The Institutions, the phrase coined by the 1960s Communist student revolutionary Rudi Dutschke, but which has its origins in the writings of the Italian Communist political theorist Antonio Gramsci.

Though malign of intention, the people in these vocal, intolerant, Woke ‘minorities’ aren’t stupid. They spotted early on how craven, popularity-obsessed but blame-averse, politicians and governments of every stripe were increasingly outsourcing decision-making to authorities beyond the reach of the democratic process – and thereby conveniently beyond their own arc of responsibility – both upwards to supranational organisations, and sideways to autonomous agencies and quangos.

They realised how such near-State and/or quasi-State institutions would, in the developing post-democratic era, become the new centres of political authority and influence, whose capture by a relatively small cultural-marxist elite would enable them to wield power out of all proportion to the numbers who share their views. They have become powerful due to years spent infiltrating, then taking over, the near-State, quango and ‘charity’ sectors, and waiting for the signal or excuse to launch the culture war in earnest.

The George Floyd / Black Lives Matter / Antifa riots of last summer provided both. This is why the cultural and historical attack on England appears to have acquired such momentum, depth and width so quickly. But, irrespective of the precise cause, its consequence is that, sadly, there seems to be no real political desire to push back against what looks like nothing more than an updated, more malignant mutation of the stock Marxist critique of Western civilisation.

If the ‘Conservative’ Party hierarchy were indeed as serious about tackling the Woke virus as the Daily Telegraph‘s Allister Heath – uncharacteristically wrongly and over-optimistically in my view – suggests, then they’d be upholding free speech, countering pernicious, divisive Critical Race Theory, Gender Theory and Trans Theory as part of a wider repudiation of identitarian politics generally, and clipping the wings of the BBC, much more robustly than they are, instead of merely changing a few street names, making it slightly harder to pull down ‘problematic’ statues, and compensating de-platformed speakers at universities.

But they’re not; and neither do they want to. The Tories’ ‘War on Woke’ is strictly a Phoney War.

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Brexit-Watch: Friday 12 June 2020

The EU has reason to fear the implications of Britain’s historic Hong Kong connections in negotiations over future UK-EU trade relations   

Note: this article was originally published at The Conservative Woman on Friday 05 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

 

EU: Trade with China Trumps Freedom for Hong KongGatestone Institute

It should by now be clear that, having either deliberately released the COVID19 virus or negligently allowed to it escape (the jury is still out on that one, so take your pick), China intends to take advantage of the rest of the world being both distracted by it and intimidated by its dependency on China for PPE, to advance the Chinese Communist Party’s own agenda.

So far, the UK has reacted honourably to the Chinese threat to Hong Kong’s freedoms by suggesting the grant of a 12-month UK visa, as a ‘pathway to citizenship’, for the roughly 3 million Hong Kong residents who qualify for British National (Overseas) status.  The EU, on the other hand, shows no inclination to do anything which might jeopardise its trade links with China.

The UK must resist any moves by the EU in Brexit negotiations to capitalise on a potential future reduction in UK-China trade by being even more intransigent on future UK-EU trade relations.  The EU has more to lose.  Not only would the arrival in Britain of up to 3 million from one of the most dynamic and entrepreneurial economies on Earth be a welcome boost to Britain’s post-COVID19 recovery; the prospect of Hong Kong-style low tax, free market, small-state attitudes growing and thriving only 22 miles off the declining, sclerotic EU mainland would put the fear of God into it. 

 

History will judge Brexit on how the fisheries issue is settledGlobal Vision

This Brexit-Watch series has mentioned on several previous occasions how British commercial fishing has a symbolic, almost talismanic, political status as a proxy for Britain’s surrender of economic and territorial sovereignty since joining the then EEC in 1973, even if that status is out of proportion to the industry’s economic significance.

So the article author Hjörtur Guðmundsson is right to warn that the UK must maintain its stance of refusing to lump fishing in with all other aspects of a UK-EU trade deal – assuming one can be reached at all, which looks increasingly doubtful, though not necessarily harmful – and instead continue to insist that it be treated separately.  UK chief negotiator David Frost has so far also been adamant that EU intransigence on access to UK fishing waters will heighten the risk of the UK walking away from a trade deal, and this pressure too should be maintained.  Playing hardball may be paying off.

The greatest danger here, paradoxically, may arise from Johnson’s reported intention to involve himself more closely in the minutiae of negotiation.  Never a details man at the best of times, the risk that, amid some typically Boris bluff’n’bluster, a disadvantageous trade-off or concession might be made purely to achieve a deal for political purposes but whose baleful effects could reverberate, couldn’t be discounted.  In that case, Brexit would indeed be judged on how the fisheries issue was settled, and Johnson would be in the dock. 

 

No-deal Brexit holds fewer fears for a Covid-ravaged economy – Financial Times (£)

Even the irreconcilably Continuity-Remainer FT tacitly, albeit reluctantly, acknowledges what many have been saying ever since COVID19 first appeared on the horizon.  Set against the costs to the UK economy of the pandemic, or more accurately, the costs of the Government –

  1. putting the economy into the deep freeze;
  2. placing millions on the State payroll;
  3. borrowing upwards of £300 billion; and
  4. restricting civil liberties to an extent unprecedented even in wartime,

all of which it was panicked into taking in response, the costs in comparison of a No-Deal Brexit pale into insignificance.

Not only would the likely scale of the inevitable-in-any-event decline in economic output ameliorate any adverse economic consequences of reverting to WTO terms on a No-Deal final exit, but COVID19-induced unemployment might even be lessened by the recruitment of personnel needed to operate new border controls.

The FT of course quotes the usual anti-Brexit Jeremiahs in abundance, but for it to admit it may not be all doom and gloom is quite something. It’s an ill wind. . . .

 

Free trade with America will see our farmers prosper Centre for Brexit Policy

Considering how the iniquities of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, and the importance of the UK re-acquiring the ability as an independent sovereign nation to conclude trade deals, were among the significant issues aired during the 2016 EU Referendum campaign, it’s sometimes surprising how they appear to have receded in the public mind since then.

Yet, as this article by former Environment Secretary Owen Paterson makes clear, the calls to maintain EU-amenable levels of trade protectionism, particularly as regards agricultural products, have not gone away, merely re-surfaced under ‘animal hygiene’ or ‘animal welfare’ labels.

To end being told by countries, into whose legislatures we have no democratic input, what regulations we must apply domestically is one of the reasons we voted to leave the EU.  Paterson is undoubtedly correct to say that free trade, policed by reputable global organisations overseeing regulatory equivalence rather than imposing regulatory harmonisation, offers us a better chance of benefiting from our decision while improving animal welfare than does the alternative of continued trade-protectionism.

 

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Brexit-Watch: Saturday 14 March 2020

Note: Longer and updated version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Saturday 14 March 2020

A weekend update on some recent key Brexit-relevant story headlines, choosing five 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.)

 

Don’t be surprised if this virus delays BrexitTelegraph (£)

From the moment COVID-19 Coronavirus appeared on the horizon as something likely to cause more than the usual winter virus disruption, its use as an excuse to justify delaying Brexit was probably inevitable. The infection potential of both non-essential travel and face-to-face meetings are the grounds most often cited, but it’s also been suggested that the Brussels negotiators may just unilaterally decide to suspend negotiations anyway. Purely for medical reasons, obviously. . . .

Both economically and politically, Brexit is the government’s Number One priority after the Coronavirus outbreak, and as the Prime Minister is not conducting them personally, nothing should be allowed to interrupt them. Meetings can continue via video-conferencing from sterile areas.  The texts of drafts of agreements or appendices can be exchanged by email.  If the EU’s negotiators refused to continue with them, then the PM must make it clear that no extension of the Transition Period will be sought, and that Britain will revert to WTO terms in the event that no deal is reached.

Had the Coronavirus outbreak occurred in 2022 or 2023, causing a global downturn one or two years after full-and-final Brexit, would anyone have seriously suggested reversing Brexit and rejoining the EU as a response to it?  Of course not.  Then there’s no reason to defer it now, especially as Britain remains under EU trading and other rules including the Common Fisheries Policy, and also subject to ECJ jurisdiction, until the end of the Transition Period, which the EU itself defines as ‘until at least 31 December 2020 (my italics).

 

Von der Leyen on virus: ‘EU will do whatever is necessary’EU Observer

Which may be: not very much, or not very much that makes a significant difference, anyway. The EU, at least as represented, in Angela Merkel by a lame-duck German politician, in Ursula von der Leyen by a failed German politician, and in Christine Lagarde by a French Eurocrat widely thought to be unsuited to her present ECB role, have by the latter’s admission yet to come together at all, never mind developed a co-ordinated response, let alone sold it to member-states. 

The EU’s institutional sclerosis, along with its lack of a practical either fiscal or monetary policy toolkit commensurate with its supranational pretensions, will almost certainly prevent it coming to either a swift, or especially effective, decision.  So far, for all its resolute declarations, it has dithered but actually done very little.  All that the competition-lawyer-pretending-to-be-central-banker Lagarde managed to do as Head of the ECB was to spook the markets.

The effect of that inaction is already being seen in individual member-states reverting to unilateral decision-making at nation-state level, or in Germany at even regional level.  Nation-state governments are re-asserting themselves and, more importantly, are being seen to respond to their citizens’/voters’ demands in a way that the EU either will not, or more likely institutionally just cannot.  Nation-state borders are back, as their elected governments reimpose them without even bothering to consult Brussels, such is the perceived urgency of protecting their own citizens.

The utility, even the concept, of pan-European supranationalism is being severely tested by Coronavirus.  Anti-democratic supranational technocratic government, open borders and free movement are all now effectively dead, which means the EU in its present form is quite possibly terminally damaged. 

As far as the Brexit negotiations are concerned, this should all strengthen Britain’s hand, and is another reason why the talks should not be allowed to be interrupted or deferred.

 

Macron orders closure of all schools in France and warns he may even shut the country’s borders to control Coronavirus Daily Mail

For the Macron who was once the Davos/Bilderberg globalist oligarchy’s poster-boy for both ‘enlightened’ government by supranational technocracy and wide-open borders, this is an embarrassing climbdown.  However, in the same broadcast as he used to announce it, he also warned against ‘nationalist withdrawal’ as a pitfall to avoid at international level in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, so policy-wise, he appears to be all over the place.

With Macron preoccupied with trying to reconcile securing the French nation against the Coronavirus outbreak with maintaining his EU-integration credentials, and both against the backdrop of difficult French municipal elections this coming Sunday and the next, his influence as one of the Intransigents on the Brexit negotiations is waning.

 

UK’s antivirus measures disguise radicalisation of Brexit FT (£) 

A slightly hysterical article from the FT‘s Europe Editor, claiming that Brexit is evolving into a project far more ‘extreme’ than even Leave-voters wanted in the 2016 EU Referendum, merely because Britain’s negotiators are concerned to ensure that it achieves visible separation from the EU’s political, regulatory and legal structures.

Barber quotes Britain’s withdrawal from the EU Safety Agency as evidence of this; yet goes on to conflate EU-centralised regulation of air safety standards regulation with ‘pan-European co-operation’, which clearly it is not.  Regulation is not ‘co-operation’.  It is to achieve the latter that we need to escape the former.

Barber then bemoans the UK’s alleged abandonment of Theresa May’s commitment to the so-called ‘level playing field’.  But the EU has made it abundantly plain that it interprets that phrase as UK perpetual alignment with EU rules, despite having no say in them and how they are formulated.  It’s hard to see his article in any other light than a polemic against any kind of Brexit which isn’t in-name-only.  Even after all this time.

          

EU’s demands in negotiations with UK revealed in draft treaty Guardian

The EU appears to have evidently learned very little, and therefore changed very little.  The draft continues to insist on ‘level playing field’ rules for (all) British and EU businesses, and also in regard to state-aid.  It maintains its previous demand for the ability of the European Court of Justice to hand down rulings binding on British Courts, and ongoing regulatory harmonisation with EU laws as they develop in other areas, effectively binding the UK to EU legislation, but with no input into it.

On fishing, it proposes ‘long-term’ (NB duration not specified) agreements on access to British waters but with each side’s percentage allocation also unspecified.  On security and intelligence matters, it requires Britain in effect to guarantee its continuing application of the European Convention on Human Rights, despite its manifest flaws, with data and intelligence sharing to be withdrawn if it does not.

The UK is expected to reject most of this as unacceptable, and rightly so.  The prospect of exiting the Transition Period without any satisfactory deal, therefore, goes up another notch, as does, inevitably, the futility and counter-productiveness of any extension of the Transition Period.

This in turn must prompt the question of whether it is worth Britain persisting in this charade at all, especially if it is to be prolonged on some spurious pretext using the Coronavirus outbreak as a transparent excuse. Better to abandon it now, declare negotiations at an end, prepare for a WTO/No-Deal exit from the Transition Period, and focus our energies on ameliorating the Coronavirus outbreak in this country.

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Brexit-Watch: Saturday 07 March 2020

Note: Longer and updated version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman earlier today, Saturday 07 March 2020

A weekend update on some recent key Brexit-relevant story headlines, choosing four 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.)

 

Brexit row erupts after Barnier accuses UK of planning to ditch human rights commitmentPolitics Home

In a typically disingenuous combination of red herring and attempt to assert EU extra-territorial jurisdiction over the post-Brexit UK, Barnier has accused the UK of ‘refusing to continue to apply’ the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) after full-Brexit. This is arrant nonsense.

The ECHR is the creation of the immediate post-WW2 Council of Europe, is enforced by the Council’s European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg, and is separate and distinct from the EU.  The latter is not even a signatory to the Convention, merely requiring new member-states to be signatories, and the EU has no jurisdiction over it.

It’s conceivable however that, once freed of the obligation to be a signatory to the ECHR by virtue of its EU membership, the UK could decide after Brexit to enact its own Bill of Rights (possibly linked to a written Constitution) and, as part of that, withdraw from either the ECHR in full or merely from the jurisdiction of its ECtHR.

As Lawyers for Britain‘s Martin Howe QC explains, there’s a compelling case for such a move.  The Strasbourg human rights court has come to mirror some unsatisfactory features found also in the EU’s own European Court of Justice, principally a tendency to judicial activism rather than interpretation, introduction into European human rights law of concepts not present in the original text, and the predominance of the Continental Codified, rather than English Common Law, legal tradition.

Barnier in effect wants the EU to have the power to direct the democratically elected government of an independent sovereign nation-state on which international treaties and conventions it should or should not sign up to. That is an outrageous demand that deserves to be dismissed out of hand.

 

Paris versus London: the clash of the financial centresJohn Keiger, Briefings for Britain

Having failed, in the immediate aftermath of the 2016 EU Referendum, to persuade many, if any, City-based European banks to move their London operations to Frankfurt or Paris, the French are now coming back, but cloaked in the EU flag, for another attempt.  The possibility that this is sabre-rattling as part of French domestic politics’ general background noise to the upcoming French municipal elections this month, where Macron looks likely to be embarrassed at least, can’t be ruled out.

Despite the European Banking Authority having made the move, London’s sheer size, global reach, expertise, power and capacity for innovation as an international financial centre compared to Paris suggests this will be a futile quest.  Even if this were not a factor, the far more onerous and restrictive, and significantly slower-deciding and less flexible, regulatory regimes covering both financial services and labour markets would surely be a disincentive.

The threat to withhold passporting rights from UK banks doing business in France looks similarly unlikely to succeed.  The French may have introduced this whole issue into the negotiating mix as a giveaway to be traded off in return for getting something else.

 

Negotiating deals with both the EU and the US will be tricky for Britain: but it does have a trump card Shanker Singham, Telegraph (£)

The overriding difference between the two sets of negotiations is this: that while both parties in the UK-US negotiation will focus on economics and trade, both parties in the UK-EU negotiation will not.  For the EU, this deal isn’t about economics and trade, but about politics, in particular, Brussels’ semi-existential political need to try and limit the competitiveness of an ex-member on its north-western doorstep, even at the price of harming its own member-states’ economies. That is bound to maintain, if not incrase, its tendency to intransigence.

Britain taking up its seat at the WTO this week, for the first time as an independent member in nearly 50 years, has sent what ought to be a powerful signal to Brussels that, if it continues to try to insist on setting both our regulatory environment and legal order after Brexit, then we are quite prepared to walk away and go WTO.

 

We must not allow the EU to bind our hands in trade negotiations with other partners Stephen Booth, Conservative Home

In what’s been appropriately described as a ‘multi-dimensional game of chess’, and despite the demands likely to be made on our trade negotiating resources and expertise, for Britain to conclude, or at least substantially conclude, as many overseas trade deals as possible during 2020, in parallel to the trade-talks with the EU, must be an imperative.

In macro terms,  one vital fact should not be overlooked. Time is not on the EU’s side. The Eurozone economy is suffering its slowest growth in 7 years. Internally, its rate of GDP growth continues to decline, while externally, it accounts for an ever-diminishing share of global GDP growth.

EU quarterly real gdp growth 2016-19

EU declining share global GDP growth

Seeing the UK reach trade deals with the parts of the world which are growing, not stagnating, is essential towards disincentivising the EU from continuing to insist on its absolutist level-playing-field on, e.g.,  state aid, environmental and labour standards, an approach which is intended, not so much as to facilitate trade, as to protect its own heavily regulated economies from competition.

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The BBC Empire strikes back: will PM Boris Johnson back down?

A combination of Johnson’s vacillation, resistance, and ministerial appointments reflecting both, together with a probable reluctance to counter and overcome the BBC’s self-serving resistance campaign, make it highly likely that he will abandon pledges to reform its anachronistic and illiberal funding model 

Note: Based on, but both expanded and updated from, the articles originally published at The Conservative Woman on Tuesday 11th February 2020 and Tuesday 3rd March 2020, respectively 

Is Boris about to wimp out on the BBC licence fee?‘, I asked here on 17th February.  In the mere two and a half weeks since, the answer has hardened from ‘Hmm, maybe.’ to ‘Almost certainly.’

At that time, the original proposal, to decriminalise non-payment of the fee and possibly scrap the licence altogether, had already been downgraded to merely modifying (but, er, not before 2027) the licence fee model, and only a ‘consultation’ on decriminalisation. 

In that earlier 17th February blogpost, however, I recounted how only four months previously, the Institute of Economic Affairs had published its own ‘consultation’ in the form of its policy paper New Vision: Liberating the BBC from the licence fee, its main recommendations for transforming the corporation into a subscriber-owned mutual being summarised here.

I went on to describe the alternative explanation – for Johnson’s apparent reluctance, that is, to follow up on his initial resolve, despite evidence of substantial public support – which was suggested by academic David Sedgwick in his book The Fake News Factory: Tales from BBC-Land, and I speculated that the Cabinet and Government appointments emerging from  Johnson’s reshuffle seemed to bear this out. 

So what has happened since then?    

Well, neither popular dissatisfaction with the BBC, nor support for the drastic reform of its funding model, have subsided.  On 23rd February a new ComRes poll found 50 per cent of people saying the BBC is poor value for money, and support for abolishing the licence fee at 61 per cent.  In early December 2019, YouGov had found that 48 per cent of Britons trusted the BBC to tell the truth either not much or not at all, while only 44 percent trusted it to tell the truth a fair amount or a great deal.  In the year to November 2019, 200,000 people cancelled their TV licence, and the licence fee evasion rate continues to grow.

Trust in the BBC YouGov 01-Dec-2019

BBC 'licence-evasion' rate 2010-2018

Meanwhile, the BBC has started mobilising its forces for the fightback against what, given the evidence above, would for it undoubtedly be an existential threat.

Firstly, its main staff union, BECTU, is organising a ‘save the BBC’ petition.  

Note how merely considering decriminalisation of non-payment of the licence-fee is presented as ‘continuously attacking the BBC’.  If this isn’t with the BBC’s at least full support, if not even co-operation, I’d be astonished.  Secondly, there’s also a pro-BBC petition by the left-wing campaign group 38 DegreesAgain, I doubt if the BBC finds it unwelcome.

Secondly, BBC grandees are being wheeled out to promote the corporation’s own version of Project Fear.  Chairman Sir David Clementi led the predictable shroud-waving, conjuring up an apocalyptic vision of a Britain plunged into civilisation-threatening darkness should a distraught populace be deprived of Strictly Come Dancing, before wailing that scrapping the licence fee would ‘weaken the nation‘. 

How the nation would be weakened merely by some of its people no longer being coerced to pay for something they do not want was not immediately obvious.  Or, as Continental Telegraph‘s Tim Worstall succinctly put it, disingenuous tripe: in effect ‘Without the licence fee we’d stop making Strictly Come Dancing ‘coz we’d have no money, so we’d have to make Strictly Come Dancing in order to make money’.  

Clementi went to list examples of programmes and national sporting events which would, allegedly, not be accessible under a subscription model – a risible argument which in effect acknowledges that the BBC couldn’t make programmes of sufficient quality or appeal to persuade customers to part with their money voluntarily.  In which case, it should be asked, why should they be forced to fund it coercively?

The ‘endangering coverage of national sporting events’ claim has even less merit. Clementi completely failed to explain why, apparently, a subscription-funded BBC couldn’t bid against its rivals for the right to broadcast major national or sporting events.

Thirdly, the corporation’s reliably on-message MPs among dripping-Wet ‘One-Nation’ Tories are distraught.

The BBC is so much a broadcaster that people love, gushed political pipsqueak Huw Merriman, overlooking consistent opinion-polling reporting the exact opposite, and whose own article ironically ended with a poll in which fully 92 per cent of respondents wanted the licence fee scrapped.

Merriman poll TGraph licence fee scrapped

Merriman, incidentally, is the erstwhile sycophantic PPS bag-carrier to former Chancellor of the Exchequer and arch-Remainer Philip Hammond, content to act as his anti-Brexit plotting master’s mouthpiece, and thought to have been the anonymous PPS who forecasted that Parliament not approving Theresa May’s (non)-‘Withdrawal’ BRINO Agreement would ‘put Corbyn into No 10’.  Yet despite being a relative nonentity, he has managed to become Chair of the Commons All-Party Parliamentary Group on the BBC.  It’s likely stance on the licence fee question isn’t hard to guess.

Destroying the BBC would be ‘cultural vandalism’, hyperbolised loyal May-confidant Damian Green, studiously ignoring the fact that hardly anyone demands its specific ‘destruction’, merely the reform of its funding model to make it non-coercive.

Even ministers are backtracking furiously, running scared.  The next BBC boss will need to be a reformer, squawked former DCMS Secretary Nicky Morgan in one of those proverbial statements of the bleedin’ obvious, but curiously forgetting that it’s the Government that’s promising to require reform.

There are no ‘pre-ordained’ decisions, yapped Transport Secretary Grant ‘aka Michael Green’ Shapps, going on to label the BBC a ‘much loved national treasure’, but conveniently omitting to mention its 92 per cent ‘Bad’ rating on Trustpilot.

BBC rated Bad on Trustpilot

I suspect the strong probability is that, regardless of public opinion, a significant part of the Tory Parliamentary Party is already compromised.  And that’s before MPs start coming under pressure from astroturfing letter-writing campaigns to their local papers and similar phone-ins to their BBC local radio stations. 

In the meantime, the BBC remains able to treat its captive funders with undisguised contempt.

The Courts have refused an appeal against the decision not to grant a Judicial Review of its impartiality vis-à-vis the requirements of its Charter.  It backed its reporter who described the crowds celebrating in Parliament Square on Brexit Night as ‘too white’. Its Newsnight ‘expert on the deleterious effects of ‘austerity’’ was a far-Left activist. If its audiences hate its obsessively woke distortion of historical classics in the name of ‘diversity’, they can lump it.   

All these developments hardly suggest Johnson’s robust-sounding earlier pledges on the BBC’s iniquitous ‘licence-fee’ will be carried through swiftly and eagerly.  Or at all.  As early as 5th February, News-Watch’s David Keighley warned at The Conservative Woman that the licence fee ‘overhaul’ would be a damp squib.  Only last Saturday, the Taxpayers’ Alliance’s Sam Packer showed, also at The Conservative Woman, how the sock-puppet ‘consultation’ on decriminalisation will be manipulated to guarantee the result desired by both the BBC and its supporters within the Whitehall Blob.

So, to answer that question posed two and a half weeks ago: Yes, almost now a racing certainty.  Johnson will indeed wimp out.

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Brexit-Watch: Saturday 29 February 2020

Note: Longer and updated version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman earlier today, Saturday 29 February 2020

A weekend update on some recent key Brexit-relevant story headlines, choosing four which, while not necessarily meriting a full-length article, nevertheless warrant a paragraph or two of comment, rather than merely a couple of lines.  (NB: (£) denotes article behind paywall.)

 

Dealing with the French: Frost versus Barnier, Bacon versus DescartesRobert Tombs at Briefings for Britain

Few are better qualified than Professor Tombs to expound on the historically different approaches to philosophy and law which govern the respective attitudes of the French and English towards the negotiating of treaties.  The former view the opening text as sacred, to be departed from only minimally, if at all: for the latter, it is merely a starting point from which give-and-take bartering can proceed towards, eventually, a mutually acceptable outcome.

Personally, I find it a curious paradox how, when it comes to the nuts and bolts of trade negotiations, it’s the British who are pragmatic and transactional, while the Brussels Eurocrats are institutional and inflexible: but that, when it comes to the philosophical question of EU membership per se, it’s the Eurocrats who are transactional, emphasising alleged economic advantage, while the British are constitutional, prioritising the principles of sovereignty, democracy and self-government over the risk of temporary economic disruption.

Anyway, to the schism identified by Professor Tombs must be added current domestic politics among the main EU protagonists. In Germany, Merkel’s originally anointed successor as CDU party leader and Chancellor having withdrawn, the contest has now degenerated into an unedifying struggle between two fairly unimpressive male apparatchiks.  In France, an already unpopular Macron faces municipal elections in late March from which he is likely to emerge weakened.

The two diametrically different approaches, coupled with more volatile both French and German domestic politics, could well turn the Brexit trade-talks into a dialogue of the deaf.  In which case, the likelihood of Britain deciding that further negotiation is pointless, and walking away to WTO terms, will become even greater.

 

EU’s uneven playing field revealed – Germans, Belgians, Italians, French are the worst offendersFacts4EU

This is about the EU’s restrictions on the power of member-states’ national legislatures on state-aid and competition. Yet despite the insistence by Barnier on ‘red lines’ for a ‘level playing field’ regarding his demand for continuing UK-EU ‘regulatory alignment’ after Brexit, the EU is, as ever, the greatest breaker of the rules it purports to impose on others.

Germany, France, Belgium and Italy all receive favourable state-aid dispensations at between three and four times the rate Britain does. Some ‘level playing field’. . . .  Moreover, identifying where responsibility lies for administering the rules is typically shrouded in bureaucratic obfuscation. It would be futile focusing on this area to the detriment of others in negotiation.

Once again, it’s possible to envisage this issue causing Labour some trouble domestically, especially if the party, though nominally united, has ongoing tensions between the soft-Left faction of presumed winner Starmer and the defeated hard-Left camp grouped around Long-Bailey.  Remember, Corbyn repeatedly appeared torn between his desire as a Remainer to stay within the EU’s ambit and his desire as a socialist to use taxpayers’ money to prop up failing businesses.

 

UK-EU: a question of trustFinancial Times (£)

Briefly, for those unable to breach the paywall, the article references the spat between Britain and the EU on the former’s accusation that the EU resiled from its offer of a Canada-style Free Trade Agreement, and the latter’s accusation that Britain is resiling from a previous agreement not to re-open aspects of Theresa May’s Political declaration. It goes on to regret the end result of the document supposed to guide the negotiations being at the centre of a feud.

It’s hard not to see a combination of naïveté and anti-Brexit EU-philia at work here.  These negotiations were always going to be conducted in an atmosphere of bad faith on the EU’s side.  The reason isn’t hard to discern.  Going back to Professor Tombs’ article, for Britain, these negotiations are transactional: for the EU, on the other hand, they are near-existential.

As the Bruges Group remarked this week. . .   

Indeed.  But that’s also slightly to miss the point.  The EU is conceptually incapable of treating us like any other country.  Alone among other countries who joined it, we have chosen to repudiate and quit their to them noble but to us neo-imperial Project.  For that, in their world-view, we are heretics who must not only be punished for our apostasy but be seen to be punished for it.  If that sounds quasi-religious, it’s because it is.  These negotiations were pre-destined to be acrimonious.

 

The UK and EU Negotiating Mandates ComparedGlobal Vision

It’s clear from this comprehensive, up-to-date summary, including all the developments of the past week, that behind the spin disseminated via the headline/soundbite-wanting media lie some potentially insoluble points of contention.

Fishing is the obvious and arguably also the most difficult one since, despite its relative insignificance economically, it is hugely important politically and even almost symbolically, given its public profile: one can easily see it being the bellwether by which the whole deal is judged.  The UK has rejected both keeping current levels of access for other EU member-states, and sequencing.  It could be the difference between an agreement and WTO.

The so-called level playing field and rules of origin issue, and I think we can expect EU obduracy on financial services, torn as it is between mercantilist envy of the City’s dominance and knowledge of EU firms’ dependence on it. Generally, if the EU refuses to budge on demanding its own legal order be supervening, the UK has made it clear there will be no agreement.  Don’t delete your online WTO guide just yet.

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Brexit-Watch: 22nd February 2020

Note: Longer and updated version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman earlier today, Saturday 22 February 2020

A weekend update on some recent key Brexit-relevant story headlines, choosing four which, while not necessarily meriting a full-length article, nevertheless warrant a paragraph or two of comment, rather than merely a couple of lines.  (NB: (£) denotes article behind paywall.)

 

The EU’s absurd and ever-changing position reminds us why Britain voted to leaveTelegraph (£)

Global Vision’s Shanker Singham on how, having originally offered Britain a Canada-style free trade deal with add-ons, the EU has backtracked to the extent of demanding a provision which it doesn’t insist on even in its FTAs with China and the USA: namely a guarantee that whenever the EU changed its laws, the UK would follow suit, in perpetuity.  This would in effect subordinate our own trade’s legal architecture to EU state aid rules and ECJ oversight.

Brussels also demands what it calls ‘dynamic regulatory alignment’; meaning in effect that, to secure a FTA, the UK would need to become a rule-taker from Brussels with no say in how those rules were set.  Both moves are perfect examples of the intransigence which caused us to vote to leave in the first place.  But Johnson will need to be watched to ensure there is no backsliding or dilution of our refusal to capitulate to this.

 

The EU isn’t interested in free trade with the UK, just political domination –  Briefings for Britain (formerly Brexit)

An argument whose first premise has been amply borne out this week by Brussels’ attempt to move the goalposts, firstly, by trying to hedge a Canada-style deal about with onerous conditions, in what looks like a naked attempt to hobble Britain’s ability to compete against an over-regulated, sclerotic EU.

Secondly, by Barnier’s ill-tempered refusal of a Canada-style trade deal on transparently spurious grounds of geographical proximity.  And thirdly, by even demanding the return of the Elgin Marbles to Greece as part of any trade deal. 

With the growing presence of nation-state populists in both member-state and European parliaments, making Brussels desperate to make life outside the bloc as difficult as possible for Britain, the argument’s second premise is no less valid.

 

Post-Brexit funding row breaks out in BrusselsTimes (£)

Very much at the forefront of Eurocrats’ minds, in the sense of trying to show the remaining 27 member-states, by its treatment of Britain, just how difficult it will make life outside the bloc for any other country which decided to emulate Britain and leave, taking its contributions with it.  Brexit leaves a €75 billion-sized hole in the next 7-year budget.

The implications for member-states’ internal politics are significant.  Germany’s extra payments are 6 times France’s, and Merkel’s CDU is under electoral pressure from the Eurosceptic AfD.  France’s low-level Gilets Jaunes insurrection each weekend shows no sign of abating, and the Marion Maréchal (Le Pen) led Rassemblement Nationale expects to make big gains in this year’s French municipal elections.  Just to make life more difficult for Macron, the Dutch, with an economy only one-third the size of France’s, are objecting to paying EU contributions 70 per cent higher than France’s.

 

What Keir Starmer would mean for BritainFT (£)

To which headline must of course first be added the caveat: if he becomes Labour leader.  Admittedly, it looks unlikely that he won’t, but Rebecca Long-Bailey has the endorsement of Len McClusky’s Unite Union and, as far as I can establish, no candidate has ever won the Labour leadership without it.

In the short term, Starmer as leader will impact more on Labour’s internal politics than on the course of Britain’s exit.  Johnson has a compliant Parliamentary party with an unassailable majority, so Starmer won’t be forcing any change of policy.  He will however be far more soft-Brexity and even Rejoin-inclined than Corbyn, so could arouse some disquiet among Labour MPs in Brexit-voting seats who narrowly survived December’s massacre and could be the next bricks in Labour’s Red Wall to tumble.

What he will bring to the table, however, is a lawyer’s far greater ability than Corbyn possessed to absorb the fine detail of any agreements, and then subject Johnson to forensic questioning on them.  Boris is a big-picture blusterer, not a details man, so he could well under-perform when put under this kind of pressure.  Coupled with growing resentment at his eco-policies, this could well cause his popularity and approval ratings to dip.  So Starmer could impact internal Tory politics as well.

 

What these four articles taken together show is that the EU is visibly in big trouble on several fronts.  Not mentioned in any of the four above is the mountain of bank debt on the books of the ECB, which potentially limits it from engaging in any further quantitative easing to try and boost currently slowing growth in the sclerotic Eurozone. 

If only our own negotiators would recognise it, and leverage it to drive a harder and more advantageous deal for Britain.  Though if the evident intransigence of the EU is a guide, it surely increases the chance of our eventual exit on WTO terms.

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Is Boris about to wimp out on the BBC ‘licence-fee’?

With Johnson’s dramatic announcements of his intent, both to decriminalise non-payment of the BBC licence-fee and even to consider its outright abolition, already starting to be hastily softened and diluted, it’s justifiable to ask whether both won’t eventually be abandoned under pressure                

Note: Longer and updated version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman earlier on Tuesday 11 February 2020

It all began so well.  On 14 December, under 48 hours after his stunning election victory, Prime Minister Boris Johnson initiated moves to decriminalise non-payment of the coercive, regressive, household TV-signal receivability poll-tax inaccurately known as the BBC ‘licence-fee’. 

It was hardly unexpected.  During the final week of the election campaign, Johnson had already condemned the iniquity of people being forced to fund the BBC despite having no wish to consume its output, and had raised the prospect at least of its outright abolition.  

He correctly branded it a tax – as had the House of Lords as long ago as 2006 when it determined that it was indeed a tax and not the ‘service-fee’ which the BBC disingenuously claimed and continues to claim – and his chief strategist Dominic Cummings was reported to be working on proposals for alternative ways for the Corporation to fund itself.  

As relevant as these considerations are, they’re in some ways almost secondary: because abolition of the licence-fee, or at the very minimum, decriminalisation of its non-payment, should, on principle alone, be so uncontroversial as to incontestable, given that a BBC TV licence is mandatory on pain of fine or even imprisonment, even if the householder wishes to consume only non-BBC output.

It’s a statist, authoritarian funding model, more suited to a dreary 1960s socialist semi-dictatorship than a modern liberal democracy with competitive free markets.  In a multi-platform, multi-provider broadcast environment, where we access hundreds of TV and radio channels, on computers, tablets or smartphones, inside or outside, at home or travelling, at any time, the BBC’s household TV-signal receivability poll-tax is anachronistic and outmoded to the point of obsolescence. It’s increasingly unenforceable, and ultimately doomed.

As an analogy, imagine being forced to pay Waitrose an annual £157 ‘trolley-tax’, just for the ability to choose always to shop elsewhere.  Imagine being forced to pay British Airways an annual £157 ‘flight-tax’, just for the ability to choose always to fly FlyBe or Easyjet.  Well, that’s the BBC ‘licence-fee’.

In the days following Johnson’s 14 December announcement, with ministers already instructed to boycott the BBC’s flagship Today Programme over credible allegations of its consistent anti-Brexit and anti-Conservative biases, it received widespread praise and approval from voters and commentariat alike, by no means all of them slavish Tory-supporters or Boris-worshippers.

A Savanta-ComRes poll found that BBC News was less trusted than ITV News on perceptions of impartiality and accuracy: that two-thirds of respondents believed the licence-fee should be either scrapped or substantially reformed: and that half of all under-55s would prefer to receive news free from commercial broadcasters funded by advertising, rather than pay for it via the BBC licence-fee.

The BBC is trapped in a Remainer-London bubble of its own making, wrote LBC broadcaster Iain Dale in The Daily Telegraph.  The licence-fee days of a BBC that drips with anti-Brexit bias are numbered, declared Ross Clark in The Sun.  The ‘diversity’-obsessed BBC is now mortifyingly out of touch with modern Britain, chided Sherelle Jacobs, again in The Daily Telegraph.  The paying public think the BBC’s ‘values’ stink, rasped former Labour and now SDP-voter Rod Liddle in The Sunday Times.

This notable unanimity between public and punditocracy continued into the New Year, the apparently imminent decriminalisation of the licence-fee given impetus, it seemed, by the announcement of the departure of the BBC’s Director-General.

Exit stage left, Lord Hall of the British Bias Corporation, observed BBC NewsWatch’s David Keighley at The Conservative WomanIn the age of Netflix, the licence-fee can’t be justified, averred Stephen Canning at the free-market championing 1828.com.  In the 21st century, we should be able to imagine life without the BBC licence-fee, insisted the Daily Telegraph’s Charles Moore.  The BBC is panicking at the public’s rejection of its left-‘liberal’ world-view, said Janet Daley, also in the Daily Telegraph.

Then came the Brexit Weekend of 31st January – 1st February, when the BBC, far from demonstrating any acknowledgement of, much less contrition for, the precipitous decline in its audiences’ toleration of its coercive funding model and of its inherent institutional bias, simply doubled down on its contempt for its captive customers, as I described in detail here a week or so ago.  And then promptly compounded it by announcing, on Monday 3rd February, an increase in its so-called ‘licence-fee’.

Only a month before, a Public First poll found 75 per cent of respondents supporting abolition of the licence-fee outright, and 60 per cent favouring the decriminalisation of non-payment, indicating both greater dissatisfaction with the BBC and greater willingness to see its funding reformed than reflected in the Saventa-ComRes poll mentioned earlier.

Rarely can a set of political circumstances have been so propitious for a recently elected government to implement a pre-election pledge for an easy win, to widespread approval.  So we waited for what seemed the inevitable announcement.

And then something changed.

In the week after Brexit Weekend, a rather more hesitant, cautious, non-committal tone has started to emerge from certain Conservative Party figures and Government sources. It was very noticeable during an extended interview on Talk Radio between host Mike Graham and John Whittingdale MP, the former Tory Culture Secretary. 

By way of background, it’s worth recalling that Whittingdale was Culture Secretary at the time of the last BBC Charter Review in 2016; but also that, having previously voiced some disobliging opinions about the BBC in general –

  1. anticipating its demise as ‘a tempting prospect’;
  2. criticising it for abusing its privileged position and protected funding by merely chasing ratings rather than producing new content; and
  3. describing the licence-fee as ‘worse than the poll tax’,

he was sacked by Theresa May in her first Cabinet reshuffle after becoming PM after it had mysteriously – or perhaps fortuitously – emerged earlier in that Charter Review year of 2016 that he had had a previous relationship with a sex worker, his sacking prompting an outpouring of Twitter-joy by prominent BBC lefty-luvvies who might well have had good reason to fear a different BBC funding model reliant on persuading customers voluntarily to part company with their hard-earned cash.

Pro-BBC lefties 2016 Whittingdale

His discussion with Mike Graham on Wednesday 5th February is very much more emollient and less critical than his previous opinions. Instead, he comes out with stuff like this:

“there are serious issues to address for the BBC, in that the broadcasting world is changing very rapidly, there is now a huge choice available which simply didn’t exist before”

“the BBC clearly needs to reconsider at this point what its place is and what it change it needs to make”

“in terms of the licence, I mean all that’s being announced today is a consultation about whether or not to decriminalise, which is something that we looked at before, but which we said should be kept under review, but I think that in the longer term there is a case for asking whether or not the licence is still an appropriate means of financing the BBC”

By all means listen to the interview and study the transcript for yourself: but to me it suggests a party and government starting to row back from its implied promises, and almost leaving it to the BBC itself to decide its future funding method.

On the same day, current Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan – she who declined to stand again as MP for Loughborough because of the time pressures of politics on her private family life, but nevertheless accepted a Peerage from Johnson so as to remain Culture Secretary for a mere few weeks but then adorn the Lords’ red benches for life –  agreed that the BBC licence-fee could indeed disappear.

But, er, not before 2027.

In other words, for the remaining 7 years of the current 10-year Charter period, the funding model based on the coercive, regressive, household TV-signal receivability tax would be sacrosanct.  Bizarrely, Morgan suggested that this showed the government was ‘taking heed of public opinion’.  She then went on to echo Whittingdale by confirming that what was being launched was merely a ‘consultation’ on whether non-payment of the licence-fee should be decriminalised.  Cue sound of ball landing in long grass. 

Three days later, Morgan was back, this time with the revelation that the licence fee might not in fact be scrapped outright, but replaced by ‘tiered levels of access’ in which viewers could choose the level of services they required. Significantly absent was any mention of no payment being required from those who don’t wish to consume BBC output at all; presumably, therefore, under this ‘tiered levels of access’ model, there would still be a minimum level payable anyway, so it would still be both coercive and amount to a regressive tax, as now.

It’s reasonable to wonder why the Government needs its own ‘consultation’ at all.  The work has already been done. Only 4 months ago, the Institute of Economic Affairs published its policy-paper ‘New Vision: Liberating the BBC from the licence-fee“, whose main recommendations, transforming the Corporation into a subscriber-owned Mutual, summarised here, were –        

  1. The nature of the broadcast market has changed to such a degree that public service broadcasting, the current definition of which used by Ofcom is no longer coherent, should no longer be delivered largely by one institution.
  2. Niche providers are often better than the BBC at ensuring the broadcasting of good quality content to meet minority tastes.
  3. The fact that the market for broadcasting is now an international industry means that many artistic, educational and cultural programmes, which might not have been economic in the past, may now be economic and not need subsidy.
  4. Changes in technology mean that the current approach to financing, owning and regulating the BBC is no longer tenable.
  5. The BBC should be financed by subscription and owned by its subscribers, enabling it to determine different subscription models for different markets
  6. The BBC should lose its legal privileges and be treated in the same way as al other news and media organisations for competition and other purposes

Johnson professes himself a fan of ‘oven-ready’ solutions.  This is one he could prepare and serve right away, restricted only by the time it takes to pass legislation revoking the current BBC Charter and allow the BBC a reasonable, but not excessive, duration in which to transition to its new funding model.    

Since Johnson won the election, there have been several disturbing hints that he might be resiling from some of the positions he previously appeared to espouse robustly. Immigration reduction, HS2 and Huawei all come to mind, and that’s before the tentative ‘squeeze the rich’ Budget proposals. trailed and rightly excoriated as disincentivising and un-conservative over the weekend of 8-9 February.

Now it starts to look as if the Biased BBC and its iniquitous ‘licence-fee’ might be going the same way.  Superficially, it’s difficult to see why, given the public support the proposal enjoyed and continues to enjoy.  In footballing terms, Johnson has the ball at his feet with an open goal gaping in front of him, and the crowd roaring him on.  Has he –      

  1. panicked at the first contact with the enemy; or
  2. gone native after institutional capture by a BBC-Whitehall pincer movement; or 
  3. never ever had any genuine intention of decriminalisation or abolition anyway?

Or is there something more profound, even darker and more cynical, at work?

In his new book “The Fake News Factory – Tales from BBC-Land”, a searing excoriation of the BBC, its bias, and its abuse of the power derived from its uniquely privileged position and jealously-guarded protected funding, author David Sedgwick suggests a possible answer.

It is that Boris’ Johnson’s recent sabre-rattling about the BBC has much more to do with his personal annoyance at how it has intruded on his private life, most notably during the recent election campaign, than it has to do with any principles-originating conviction that its current coercive funding model is illiberal, authoritarian, and a wrong that must be righted. 

Brexit apart, suggests Sedgwick, as a metropolitan ‘liberal’-‘progressive’ Conservative, Johnson is, politically, largely in tune with the left-of-centre, state-interventionist, Green, socio-culturally Woke institutional groupthink of the BBC, on whose propaganda the political class relies heavily to get its message across.  And that, with this worldview predominant in the Conservative Party in its current iteration, not much can be expected of it in taking the behemoth of the BBC on.

More recent developments certainly seem to bear this out.  In Johnson’s recent Cabinet and Government reshuffle, the post of Culture and Media Secretary, carrying responsibility for the BBC, went as predicted to ‘rising star’ Oliver DowdenRemainer, Cameroon, ex-SpAd & party-insider.  With at least one careerist eye no doubt fixed on future promotion, the prospect of him rocking the BBC boat looks remote. 

Appointed as a Minister of State alonside him was none other than former Culture and Media Secretary John Whittingdale, whose hedging and non-committal remarks about the BBC ‘licence-fee’ to Talk Radio‘s Mike Graham were described earlier.

To complete the hat-trick, elected as Chairman of the Commons Select Committee to scrutinse the DCMS was Tory MP Julian Knight, whose first contribution to the ‘licence-fee’ debate was to suggest that imprisonment for non-payment should be replaced by stiffer fines.  Given that most ‘licence-fee dodgers’, as he put it, who get convicted don’t pay because of financial hardship – not surprising with the ‘licence-fee’ being a regressive tax – all that bigger fines would do is increase the number of people given a criminal record.  Brilliant.  The idea of abolishing the regressive tax instead had clearly not occurred to him.

These three appointments, and the developments preceding them, hardly suggest that Johnson’s robust-sounding pledges on the BBC’s iniquitous ‘licence-fee’ will be carried through swiftly and eagerly.  Or at all.  To answer the question posed in the title: Yes, almost certainly – Johnson will indeed wimp out. 

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The Not-So-Green Greta’s Ark

Both on the water and off it, Greta Thunberg’s attention-grabbing transatlantic voyage just ended has been nowhere near either so Green, or so altruistic, as it’s been trumpeted       

Note: Longer and updated version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Tuesday 20th August 2019

On Wednesday, 14th August, in a blaze of unremittingly fawning publicity and uncritical adulation of which even Moses descending from Mount Sinai with the tablets bearing the Ten Commandments would have been envious,  the good ship Mazilia – or, as I prefer to call it in view of its quasi-religious mission, ‘Greta’s Ark’ – set sail from  Plymouth bound for New York, carrying no less a personage, if you believe the Green hype, than the Eco-Messiah and putative Saviour of the World, diminutive, pig-tailed teenage ‘climate activist’ Greta Thunberg.

Greta's Ark

There’s much about this stunt and its main protagonist to mock. But just for the purposes of this article, ignore for a moment both the appalling cynicism in egregiously exploiting a clearly troubled and vulnerable child to advance an eco-totalitarian political agenda, and the fact that very few us can whistle up a $4 million, 18-metre yacht from Prince Albert of Monaco at short notice, and then spend two weeks crossing the Atlantic to assuage our enviro-guilt, rather than catching a 7-hour flight.

And instead, consider just one question: 

Precisely how Green has been The Blessed Greta’s supposedly planet-saving maritime odyssey?

Initially, let’s hopefully forestall any potential criticism for mixing up the terminology. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a colourless, odourless 0.04% trace gas essential to all plant life on Earth. It’s also invisible – though that, apparently, has not stopped Greta’s mother, a well-known Left-‘Liberal’ activist called Malena Ernman, from claiming her daughter is actually able to see CO2 with the naked eye. Truly do the righteous have bestowed upon them gifts denied to the rest of us.

Carbon (C) on the other hand, is the predominant element in coal. Which is why the Green movement always uses the language of ‘carbon’-footprint or ‘carbon’-free, when they actually mean CO2. Because in the public mind, carbon is nasty black stuff, isn’t it, while wanting, on spurious scientific grounds, to reduce the Earth’s capacity for plant and crop growth perhaps isn’t a good look.

First, how did Greta actually get to Plymouth? On foot? By bike? On a magic carpet borne aloft by unicorns? Or perhaps, more prosaically, not by ‘carbon’-free means at all, but by using the same fossil-fuel powered transport that we’re enjoined to eschew on pain of eternal eco-damnation?

Next, Greta’s Ark required the assistance of other vessels to un-dock it and tow it out of Plymouth. Curiously, this was accomplished, not by several longboats manned by brawny matelots lustily belting out a traditional sea-shanty as they heaved away at the oars, but by a couple of RIBs. These may have electric engines, but ‘carbon’-free their production ain’t.

Let’s look at the supposedly ‘zero-emissions’, ‘carbon’-free yacht itself. It’s actually built of carbon fibre. (Remember, we sceptics aren’t the ones who started the misuse of scientific terminology for political effect). Now, the production process for building a carbon-fibre yacht is estimated to be around 14 times as energy-intensive, and thus in ‘carbon’, i.e., CO2, emissions, as that for building one of equivalent length in steel. Not only that: the epoxy resins used in Greta’s Ark’s construction are different and are all organic materials made from petroleum and significant amounts of natural gas.

Some intriguing revelations about the crewing arrangements emerged soon after departure. It turns out that the westbound crossing crew will be flying back from New York to Europe, while the replacement crew will be flying from Europe to New York for the eastbound return passage.

2019.08.16 Lomborg Greta's Ark crew flights

So that’s several transatlantic flights for Greta’s Ark westbound crew to return from New York, plus several more for its replacement eastbound crew to get to New York. I’m guessing those flights won’t be in Economy, either. So what’s their ‘carbon’-footprint? Why can’t she just fly to New York with her father? Or even address the United Nations via Skype? Not all that Green after all, evidently.

Even though this eco-boondoggle has its own website on which the yacht’s progress can be tracked, some of us prefer to use independent sources of information for verification. So it was some surprise to see that, last Friday, on the Marine Traffic website, it appeared that the yacht’s position had stopped being reported at 0132 BST on Thursday morning, a mere 9½ hours after leaving Plymouth, and still identifiably within the English Channel’s Western Approaches.

Greta Ark posn Marine Traffic Saturday 17-Aug-2019

Which at the time struck me as slightly odd: as did the fact that, as far as I know, there were no news broadcasts from the air filming the yacht at sea. Given the obsequious near-24/7 coverage pre-departure, wouldn’t one have expected at least Sky News and the BBC to have arranged that, when the yacht was still only about 1½ to 2 hours flying time at most from either Cornwall or Brittany?

Add up the ‘carbon’-intensive construction of the boat and the ‘carbon’-footprint of all those crew flights, and suddenly this venture doesn’t look anything like as Green as it’s cracked up to be. But in this grotesque inversion of the fable of The Emperor’s New Clothes, woe betide us if we say so.

It sheds an interesting light on making an immature 16 year-old with a problematic mental history the poster-girl for incipient eco-totalitarianism that Green-Left inclined adults – many of whom insist in a different context that 16 year-olds are mature young adults with well-formed political views who should have the right to vote – are in contrast saying of the 16 year-old Greta Thunberg: “She’s just a child! You can’t criticise her!” 

But this is to note only at basic level the effective weaponisation of Thunberg. Despite her history of cognitive, emotional and developmental disorders, her celebrity parents have encouraged the view that her mental health problems are owed to the world’s alleged environmental crises. In other words, if she has some kind of obsessive disorder, then it’s all our fault. It’s a valid question to ask, therefore, why those who have nominated her to speak have chosen to hide from criticism behind such a fragile figure.

Behind her is a well-connected and well-off family whose business is ‘climate change’, and, linked to them, is a rather more publicity-shy cabal of Green lobbyists, PR-hustlers, eco-academics, and a think-tank founded by a wealthy ex-minister in Sweden’s Social Democratic government with links to the country’s energy companies.

Along with investors and those energy companies, they are all preparing to profit from the biggest Green financial bonanza of government contracts in history: the greening of Western economies. And Thunberg, via her parents and whether they realise it or not, is the fortuitously discovered poster-girl, the face of, and vehicle for, their carefully-devised political and business strategy. 

For them, ‘saving the planet’ in effect means government contracts to print money by selling the rest of us extremely expensive energy. Thunberg is being used to ease the transition to a Green crony-corporatism of technocracy not democracy, and profit not redistribution, deploying Green-energy lobbyists employing populist tactics and a children’s crusade to bypass elected representatives.      

But the sacerdotal reverence with which this entire cynically exploitative eco-stunt has been and is being treated, and the invective heaped on those who dare challenge it, either on its own ostensible purposes or its underlying motives, is in many ways an ideal metaphor for how deep-Green ideology has now acquired all the characteristics of a, albeit post-Christian and secular, religious cult.

Like other pre-Enlightenment belief systems, it posits a prelapsarian state of grace, a pristine, innocent, nature-harmonious Rousseau-ean past which has been corrupted by modernity, industrialisation and capitalism, notwithstanding their having wrought in just 250 years an improvement in the human condition unprecedented in previous millennia.

It holds that the restoration of environmental equilibrium, the reversal of Man’s Fall from the Garden of Eden, requires, above all, sacrifice and submission to an elite, who will dispense indulgences  – in the form of ‘carbon’-credits – to the fallen, absolving them of their eco-sins, while intolerantly silencing and excommunicating the heretics.

Coincidentally, perhaps, from Salt Lake City, Utah, the true aims of the deep-Green ideology for which Thunberg is such a superficially compelling poster-child for the gullible have started to emerge.

There, this week, the United Nations is hosting its 68th “Civil Society Meeting” of some 5,000 attendees drawn from some 300+ NGOs and representatives from 80 countries – no qualms about ‘carbon’-footprints for them, obviously – currently busy devising strategies how to better promote and impose UN “sustainability goals” in their communities.

Or, in other words, radical Green policies to redistribute wealth and power from individuals, communities and national legislatures to un-elected, unaccountable and authoritarian global bodies. The strategies on the agenda include:

  • Banning all cars;
  • Reorganising the suburbs;
  • Equating single-family housing with white supremacy;
  • Ending private choice in home construction;
  • Building green “municipal” government housing;
  • Banning all fossil fuels;
  • Rationing energy;
  • Curtailing air travel;
  • Banning meat consumption;
  • Controlling population.

If the contradictions behind the Odyssey of Greta’s Ark help more people to see more clearly the true – not nature and planet conserving, but power, wealth and freedom grabbing and coercively redistributing destroying – aims of the simultaneously enviro-authoritarian and Green-corporatist ideology she’s being calculatedly exploited into promoting, then it may yet prove beneficial. Though mercifully not in the sinister way it’s intended to.

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Gavin Williamson, the Huawei deal, and the Penny that hasn’t dropped

Note: Longer and updated version of the article originally published at The Conservative Woman on Monday 6th May 2019

To determine the real culprit behind the Huawei security leak, consider who might actually have had most to gain from it

On the face of it, “Conservative” MP Gavin Williamson, peremptorily sacked as Defence Secretary by Treacherous, Toxic Theresa over the Huawei scandal, seemed such an unlikely candidate for the role of Martyred- By-May.

Williamson was May’s parliamentary campaign manager during her July 2016 leadership election-turned-coronation, and was appointed as Chief Whip by her in reward. Subsequently, he was the first person she consulted in November 2017 about a replacement for Michael Fallon at Defence, acquiescing immediately when he allegedly responded by suggesting himself.

He’s long been accused, not without justification, of being hubristic, of estimating his popularity, performance and political potential much higher than both colleagues’ and commentators’ estimation of all three, and of being unfortunately, almost childishly, gaffe-prone.

Yet on this occasion, he might just be like the stopped clock that’s right twice a day. 

In two articles for The Conservative Woman, here and here, Bruce Newsome, an expert on global security risks, international conflict and counter-terrorism, and lecturer in international relations at the University of California at Berkeley, set out the geo-strategic and security implications of what, to many, is the unfathomable decision to allow what is in effect a corporate arm of the Chinese Communist State to infiltrate our national communications system and have potential access to some of our most sensitive security infrastructure. 

Quite rightly, much of his two articles, along with that of Tim Bradshaw, also at The Conservative Woman, focus on Williamson, May and her eminence grise, Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill. Correct though this is, the position, and possibly even role, of some of the other players in the drama may be going by default.

On first reading Tim Shipman’s account of the leak inquiry in The Times of 28th April, two days before before Williamson’s theatrical sacking, I was initially surprised to find the comparatively-lowly International Development Secretary, then Penny Mordaunt, listed as a member of the National Security Council. Yes, the Home, Defence, and Foreign Secretaries you would anticipate, I thought, possibly even Health too, but International Development? Overseas Aid?

A few minutes’ cursory research, however, revealed the membership to be somewhat wider than you might expect for such a high-falutin’ and sensitive-sounding body. In fact, The Spectator‘s Political Editor James Forsyth describes it as “nothing more than a Cabinet committee with a fancy name”. The beauty of such a wide membership, of course, is that it makes the true source of a leak much harder to pinpoint. And easier to deny or conceal. Or even misrepresent. 

In addition to the justified concerns of our closest allies in the Five Eyes partnership, there’s a substantial EU dimension to all this.

Firstly, taking advantage of the USA’s understandable reluctance, and as Future Cities’ Andrew Williams explained at Spiked! on 2nd May, the EU is trying to insert itself into the position of being China’s non-US ally. It isn’t hard to see which way viscerally pro-EU, anti-Trump, Whitehall Officialdom would lean in that dispute. 

Secondly, the concerns about the implications of May’s (non)-“Withdrawal” Agreement for Defence and Security, and the extent to which Britain’s Remainer Establishment are pushing for greater EU control of both, even in the event of May’s strictly-cosmetic Brexit, are deepening as they become more apparent.

The former Head of MI6 has gone on record expressing his grave misgivings at the cession to the EU of UK autonomy, decision-making and control over what he rightly terms sovereign responsibilities, even in the event of our supposed exit from Brussels’ political and administrative structures. . . .

Dearlove EU has no business in UK national security realm

. . . while Veterans for Britain’s briefing document of 29th March leaves little room for doubt, either on the extent to which Whitehall Officialdom, seemingly with May’s full consent, has been augmenting the UK’s enmeshing within burgeoning EU Defence and Defence-related industrial integration, surreptitiously, even since the 2016 EU Referendum’s decision to leave.

The full extent was spelt out in chilling detail by Briefings For Brexit’s Professor Gwythian Prins in a speech to The Heritage Foundation. Despite its 55-minutes or so length, I’d urge you to watch it. It looks beyond dispute that Cabinet Office officials, presenting to EU diplomats with May’s imprimatur, confirmed a direct intention to keeep the UK under EU authority in defence, via the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy.

Which brings us back to the fragrant Penny Mordaunt, and her unexpected promotion. She was previously a junior Defence minister: so, irrespective of her backing for May’s version of (non)-Brexit, might it not have been reasonable to expect her to have at least voiced some doubts to the National Security Council about the wisdom of embracing Huawei so eagerly, or about the subordination of much of our Defence capability to the EU? Yet in the reports emerging of the NSC’s deliberations, there has been no hint of that.

But – recall how, last Autumn, supposed “Cabinet Brexiteer” Mordaunt was trying to have her cake & eat it too, by making ritual resignation noises but also allegedly asking May to let her publicly oppose and vote against May’s deal in the House of Commons – presumably to impress her constituents – but still remain in Cabinet?

Needless to say, Mordaunt’s resignation “threat” turned out to be empty, and she now appears fully signed up to May’s abominable (non)-“Withdrawal” Agreement. As well, of course, as deploying stock Green hyperbole to parade her impeccably woke credentials. Was she giving a signal? Had she been given a signal?

2019.04.03 Mordaunt climate change

How much May, no doubt prompted by Sedwill, must regard her as a welcome, ideologically-sound, replacement for the increasingly sceptical Williamson, with the additional benefit that, having already once threatened to resign but climbed down, any further such threat, or even an objection, from her would totally lack credibility. She’s effectively, and possibly willingly, been neutralised.

She will be, I suspect, another compliant May stooge in the Karen Bradley mould. Moreover, as she retains her previous ministerial responsibilities for Women and Equalities, apparently the role of Defence Secretary now isn’t even a full-time job. But then again, perhaps it would no longer be one, if May has surreptitiously signed over so much control over our Defence capability to the EU below the radar.

rory stewart sky ridge sunday 5 may 2019May has gained in two ways. Not only does she remove one, albeit recently-converted and born-again Brexiteer opponent from Cabinet, but she replaces him with a rabid Remainer, Rory Stewart, the sycophant’s sycophant, who this past few days has been unctuously hawking his conscience and obsequiously parading his slavish loyalty around the media studios.

Stewart, as he told Robert Peston last week, believes that that a No-Deal Brexit would be “toxic and unacceptable”, so much so that he would accept any form of managed, agreed Brexit, no matter how diluted or cosmetic it was.

Or, evidently, no matter who it would have to be “agreed” with, either, given his Sunday 5th May pleadings to Corbyn to do a deal with May to pass her execrable (non)-“Withdrawal” Agreement through the Commons on Labour votes and against her own MPs, and his assertions that a split in the “Conservative” party would be an acceptable price to pay to achieve it.

How congenial that must have been to Theresa May, who only last week was treating Labour members of the Commons Liaison Committee with excessive deference and exaggerated courtesy, while treating its Conservative members with undisguised brusque contempt.

Because of the questions still unanswered, and the flat-out contradictions yet to be satisfactorily explained, neither the scandal, nor the story about it, is going to go away any time soon.

In The Sunday Times of 5th May, Tim Shipman posited a link between Williamson’s sacking and the exposure of Cabinet Secretary Mark Sedwill’s intention to lead a Whitehall mandarins’ mission to the Chinese government, without any Ministers. The glaring inappropriateness of such an action, so soon after the Huawei contract award, must have resonated, because the mission was rapidly scotched. 

Subsequently, it was claimed, again in The Sunday Times, that the real reason for Williamson’s dismissal was suggestions allegedly made by him to colleagues to the effect that May’s diabetes made her unfit to be Prime Minister on health grounds. That claim has been strenuously denied.             

Identifying where the blame truly lies in all such leak scandals, it often helps to ask: Cui Bono? Literally, “to whom is it a benefit?”. The principle that probable responsibility for an act or event often lies with the one having something to gain from it. So should it be with the Williamson/Huawei one. Truth will out.

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