Autumn in London

I am on my way to Paddington. Travelling this way on a Saturday seems strange. I only got back to the west country on Thursday. But I will be on Park Lane at midday, as we gather for the People’s Vote March. If all goes well, it will be the largest public demonstration in the capital for more than a decade. Somehow I shall find my son, and we will march together.

I am not a natural marcher. This is only the third time in my life I will have turned out to demonstrate. The first was exactly 50 years ago, in Oxford, protesting about the Vietnam War. More recently I stood outside the Old Bailey, to protest the cuts to Legal Aid. And today it is the folly that is Brexit that saw me up shortly after 6:00.

Much is written about the anger of those who voted leave – their anger at elites, at the politicians they believe have ignored them, at metropolitan liberals in the south east, at being left behind, at losing their identity – and their anger that many of us who voted remain refuse to accept the result of the referendum.

We are told that in holding to our conviction – that Brexit has to be fought – we are disrespecting democracy and thus disrespecting those who, for whatever reason, voted to leave.

So be it.

I feel a corresponding anger. Not at those who voted leave but at those who manipulated the truth for their own ideological ends, and at those politicians (and they are not all in the Conservative Party) who continue to put personal ambition and party before country.

I have no idea how this will all end, except my money is on it ending badly.

But when my grandchildren ask me what I did, I want to be able to say that I marched – and that I marched for them, for Lewis and Max, Otti, and Amelie.

Where are the good Germans?

One of the least attractive aspects of the Brexit debacle is the way in which Brexiters have prayed in aid the (fairly) recent history of this country.

Perhaps the most egregious example is this tweet from Andrea Jenkyns

It is better to go down fighting and honouring the democratic decision of our British people. Then to be long remembered for waving a white flag and surrendering to EU demands. All Brexiteers in Gov and on the backbenches its time to #StandUp4Brexit and finally #ChuckChequers.

She is not, of course, alone in all this fighting talk. As Christopher Grey notes in his recent article in Prospect, How Brexit got metaphorical,

Indeed, mentioning the war—or a war—is almost compulsory. For Brexiters, Dunkirk—that strangely ambivalent moment of defeat and triumph—has pride of place, and their leaders also yearn for a fight on the beaches, if only to dust down their dodgy impersonations of Churchill.

and Nigel Farage is never more at home than when posing in front of a poster showing spitfires in the blue skies over the Weald.

There is a risk in looking for similar analogies. But one thing strikes me: Theresa May’s shtick is that she is only following orders.

In doing so, not only has she abnegated all responsibility for the state we are in, but far from being the woman of principle that she likes to portray herself as – and as she is held out to be by those who would wear her crown – her lack of imagination and blind insistence that the referendum vote is irreversible, because “the people spoke“ simply accelerates us towards the cliff edge.

She may not be the author of our misfortunes: he is holed up in a shepherd’s hut somewhere in Oxfordshire. Nonetheless, she has been his willing accomplice.

And the ‘Good Germans’?

In a Tory party desperate to cling to office, there are very few.

“They only answered little liar . . . ”

Does it matter whether or not the First Secretary of State and Minister for the Cabinet Office watched pornography on his office PC?

In truth, probably not. It was a long time ago, he was not then a minister of the crown, it was not (by all accounts) extreme or illegal pornography,  and it is not unknown for men of a certain age to do just that, at work and at home.

But what now matters is whether he is telling the truth.

The Guardian leader on Friday puts it very clearly,

In the end, though, the outcome of the Green affair seems likely to come down, and should, to an even more basic principle – which of Mr Green and his accusers is telling the truth? – and to an even more important judgment: which of them should be believed?

What has struck me most is the silence: from the Prime Minister; from the Home Secretary (ultimately responsible for the Met); from the Commissioner of the Met.

Certainly there have been a lot of loud noises off – David Davis threatening, according to his friends, that he will resign if Mr Green has to go; Andrew Mitchell, himself no stranger to rows with the Met, calling on Cressida Dick “to stand up, as Britain’s most senior police officer, and make clear that this sort of freelancing by rogue officers is completely unacceptable and that she will stamp it out on her watch?”

And those keeping their counsel may properly argue that as the claims are being investigated by the Cabinet Office, speculation at this stage is unwise. Plus Theresa May has been overseas (but Mr Green is perhaps her closest political ally); Amber Rudd may not want to rock any boat (quite yet); Cressida Dick is not responsible for the former police officers who have leaked the details (but this goes to the heart of the public’s confidence in the Met).

So what about the silence?

Pure speculation of course, but consider the following,

If Mr Green goes, how long will Theresa May stay? How long can she stay? Particularly if she offers him imprudent support.

If Theresa May goes, will Amber Rudd run for leader of the Conservative party, notwithstanding the precariousness of her majority at Hastings and Rye at the last election? Might be worth a quick trip to William Hill.

What does Cressida Dick know? She will have been fully briefed on the events in 2008, which led to Mr Green’s Parliamentary Office being searched and his computers seized. And she was, in any event, a deputy assistant commissioner at the time, in charge of specialist operations.

Brexit one way or another looms over all of this. If Mrs May goes, will the grown up faction in the Government, which includes Amber Rudd, take back control?

Politicians are not always truthful – for all sorts of reasons.

 

It ain’t gonna happen soon . . .

The almost endless stream of news stories and articles about Trump, to say nothing of the streams of tweets from Trump, about Trump, in support of Trump, against Trump, makes for depressing reading but there is an appalling fascination in it all.

And then there are the questions. Why are the Republicans so spineless? What are the so-called Grown-Ups in the White House doing? When will the Democrats get their act together? Will Trump be impeached? Will he jump before he is pushed? What is happening to democracy in the US?

My take on it all is this.

The Republicans are doing nothing – because they are secretly hoping that Trump will blow up (possibly entirely the wrong term) before the Midterms next year, allowing Pence to step into his shoes, steady the Republican ship, and prepare for 2020. Two years is a long time in politics.

The Democrats are doing nothing – partly because they are still looking for a candidate who has a chance of success in 2020, and partly because they would like Trump to remain in the White House for as long as possible, to deny Pence any opportunity to fight 2020 as a sitting President. They also believe that the more egregious Trump’s behaviour is, the more likely that the Republicans will find themselves mired in the failure of his presidency.

The Grown-Ups in the White House are doing nothing – because of who are they are: generals, placemen, and family. The family will stick with Trump as there is no alternative; the placemen will stick with Trump as they owe Trump their position and won’t survive his departure; and the generals are the generals. For them, the habit of following orders is very deeply ingrained.

But the political calculations for both Republicans and Democrats are difficult. If the Republicans leave it too long they may find themselves stuck with Trump as their candidate in 2020, against a candidate who will be a lot harder to beat than Hillary. Equally, if the Democrats do nothing, they may find the Republicans move early, get Pence into the White House, and then they will have to unseat a sitting President.

And as for the Grown-Ups? It is probably already too late for them to do anything. They accepted the ride and the hand cart is gathering pace.

And all we can do is sit and wait and watch the reputation of the US get trashed.

Something nasty . . .

For a politician – of any age and any party – there is a narrow line to tread between national treasure and embarrassing elderly relative.

Think Ed Balls.

It may be a little premature to call him a NT but he is staking his claim. First “Ed Balls Day” on twitter, then Gangnam style on Strictly and now his recent Dream Dinner Party on Radio 4 and underpinning all this froth, listen to him talking about his stammer.

But the last few days have also seen a couple of the elderly relatives escape their minders.

First up the moist eyed wet lipped Michael Howard, attempting to conjure the shade of the Blessed Margaret with an ill-concealed warning to Spain (or as he probably sees them, Johnny Dago). Or perhaps he had just misread the Lynton Crosby playbook on dead cats.

And not to be outdone, we now have Labour’s own elderly uncle, Ken Livingstone, bleating that he was “just stating the truth” – something to which I fear he may be a stranger.