Month: August 2019

The Rage Against Boris Johnson

by Brendan O’Neill

in The Spectator

“This morning, a petition demanding ‘Do not prorogue Parliament’ is doing the rounds. At the time of writing, more than 1.4 million people have signed it. Remainers are very excited. They’re holding the petition up as proof of a mass outpouring of democratic disdain for Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament for a few more days than is normal. It is no such thing. It looks more like yet another middle-class hissy fit against Brexit and the people who voted for it. 

“As the petition map demonstrates, the signatories are strikingly concentrated in certain parts of the country, especially the leafy, super-middle-class bits of southern England. There are very high numbers of signatures from Brighton, Hove, Oxfordshire and Cambridgeshire; and in London from Islington, Dulwich, Wood Green, Hackney, Richmond and Twickenham.

“All of these areas have large numbers of working-class and poor inhabitants, of course. But they are also known, correctly, as the heartlands of the metropolitan middle classes. Some of the parts of London in which people have enthusiastically embraced the petition are especially posh: Dulwich, Richmond, Twickenham.

“Far from being an expression of national fury with Boris’s proroguing plans, the petition strikingly confirms the massive class-based and geographical divides over Brexit. So where, at the time of writing, 7.4 per cent of voters in Caroline Lucas’s Brighton Pavilion constituency have signed this anti-Boris, anti-proroguing petition, just 0.6 per cent of constituents in Doncaster North have signed it.

“So far, in Islington 6.3 per cent of constituents have signed; in Dulwich, it’s 6.1 per cent; in Richmond, it’s five per cent. But in Rochdale, it’s 0.7 per cent; in Boston and Skegness, it’s 0.5 per cent; in Merthyr Tydfil it’s 0.8 per cent; in Dagenham it’s 0.5 per cent. [In West Lancashire only 1.98% of the electorate signed it. And in Wigan only 1.23% of the electorate signed it].

“And so on and so on. The posher the area, the more likely people are to have signed. The more working-class the area, the more likely people are to have thought to themselves: ‘Sod that.’

“And it isn’t hard to see why, because for all the claims that this is a pro-democracy petition, it is nothing of the kind. Take a look at the wording of the petition. It is quite extraordinary. It says: ‘Parliament must not be prorogued or dissolved unless and until the Article 50 period has been sufficiently extended or the UK’s intention to withdraw from the EU has been cancelled.’ (My emphasis.)

“Take that in. This petition isn’t even against the proroguing of Parliament as such, it is only against the proroguing of Parliament by Boris Johnson for the purpose of forcing Brexit through. The petition explicitly says that proroguing or dissolving Parliament is fine once Brexit has either been kicked into the long grass (through extending Article 50) or destroyed entirely (through cancellation).

“This is in keeping with the broader hypocritical hysteria over Boris’s plans to suspend Parliament for a few more days than normal. The furious reaction against Boris is not driven by a desire to defend democracy, whether of the parliamentary or any other variety. Rather, it is driven by anger at the fact that MPs, the majority of whom are Remainers, will be temporarily robbed of the ability to continue thwarting and potentially even killing Brexit. They rage against Boris for being anti-democratic on the basis that he is making it more difficult for anti-Brexit MPs to frustrate the largest act of democracy in the history of this country. You couldn’t make it up.

“Just imagine what is going through the minds of people around the country, outside of the woke, Brexitphobic bubbles in the south that so many politicos and commentators inhabit. Imagine what they think as they watch MPs who have spent three years trying to frustrate the democratic will suddenly present themselves as defenders of democracy against Boris the ‘tinpot dictator’. Imagine what they think as they see footage of middle-class people having a picnic, complete with olives and bubbly, in the middle of yesterday’s protest against proroguing.

“This petition gives us a glimpse of what they think. From South Wales to the Midlands, from the North West to Essex, so many people must be looking upon the metropolitan elites that loathe Brexit as eejits, hypocrites and liars”.

Anti-Fracking Altcar Moss

Campaigners against fracking

have arranged meetings against Aurora Energy Resources. Plans to drill, hydraulically fracture, and test exploratory boreholes are opposed by Frack Free Formby and Halsall Against Fracking. The first meeting is at Gild Hall, Church Road, Formby, on Tuesday 3 September, followed by Lydiate Village Centre, Lambshear Lane, on Thursday 5 September, and at Haskayne Village Hall, School Lane, Downholland, on Friday 6 September, starting at 7pm.

The proposed site is close to several fault lines and disused bore holes. Fracking near these faults may cause earth tremors under Formby. The proposed site is a flood defence zone and close to a conservation area, on farmland which is a haven for threatened native birds and over-wintering geese and swans.

To be a commercial success and maximise shale gas recovery, many more wells and well pads will need to be built. This might include drilling under Formby and the pinewoods and sandhills. We will lose farmland on a massive scale.

Nothing Short Of A Scandal?

Northern Rail, also known as “Northern Fail”

announced it had “tens of thousands” of Advanced Purchase 10p tickets” up for sale “on selected routes only”. Around 80,000 are offered, including children for just 5p, from 1st September to 30 September”. The Champion had the story.

The bargain tickets were available for journeys from Manchester Piccadilly, Manchester Oxford Road and Manchester Victoria, offering trips to Blackpool, Liverpool, Leeds and more. It was to celebrate the launch of brand new trains, and, “the end of summer”!

Well, guess what they’ve announced. “The flash sale has now ended. 80,000 10p tickets are now in the hands of lucky customers since they went on sale on 19 August”. 

Northern is part of the Arriva group, one of the leading providers of passenger transport in Europe, employing over 53,000 people and delivering 2 billion passenger journeys a year across 14 European countries. It is part of Deutsche Bahn (DB), one of the world’s leading passenger and logistics companies, and are responsible for DB’s regional passenger transport services outside Germany.

Northern Rail firm receives £millions in public subsidies. The RMT union has criticised the government’s decision to pay Northern rail millions more in taxpayer subsidies than previously announced. It follows the release of the firm’s annual financial statement which also reveals a sharp fall in profits. A BBC analysis of the rail operator’s accounts suggest the actual increase in subsidies was £11m.

‘Summer of chaos’

The dispute over Northern’s funding followed an autumn in which the rail company apologised to passengers for the late running of many of its trains. It also endured a summer of “chaos” following the introduction of new timetables, which led to calls for the company to be stripped of its franchise.

Accounts for the 2017-18 financial year from Arriva Rail North, which trades as Northern, reveal a fall in annual pre-tax profits from £21m to £12.7m. This was due to “lower than expected passenger revenue growth” caused by the strikes, as well as “delays in Network Rail infrastructure upgrades and the impact of adverse weather conditions,” the company said.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said the figures showed Northern benefited from millions in extra franchise payments from the government. The union cited a written parliamentary answer by then-Transport Minister Andrew Jones in 2016, which said Northern would receive £281m and £276m in subsidy payments from the government in 2016-17 and 2017-18 respectively.

The company’s financial statements show these payments were actually about £284m each year. If that’s not bad enough, these payments are being funded by the UK taxpayer and will end up directly benefitting German state outfit Deutsche Bahn, who own Northern,” Mr Cash said. “That is nothing short of a scandal.”

Northern said the extra subsidies were due to changes in government policy. Deputy managing director Richard Allan said it was wrong to say Northern profits were being subsidised by the government. Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he!

Meanwhile, the elderly and disabled residents of West Lancashire must wonder if and when we might have a generous offer of 10p tickets from the massively publicly funded Merseyrail that benefits Spanish and Dutch shareholders?

Decided Only To Be Undecided?

Vernon Bogdanor, Professor of Government at King’s College London, writes

“MPs had three years to come up with an alternative to no deal – and they failed. Looking at the sorry performance of the House of Commons elected in 2017, it is difficult to avoid remembering Winston Churchill’s condemnation of the parliaments of the 1930s as being “decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all-powerful to be impotent”. Parliament has shown itself not to be the solution to Brexit but the problem.

“But of course the objection to prorogation has less to do with the time lost than its alleged purpose, frustrating the will of parliament. That the prime minister has unreasonably used his prerogative power to advise the Queen will, no doubt, form the basis of an approach to the courts. Whether that approach succeeds or not, the political dilemma remains: that parliament has willed the end of Brexit without willing the means.

“In 2019, the Commons rejected the withdrawal agreement three times. The EU has responded that the agreement cannot be renegotiated. In logic, therefore, the only way to implement Brexit is without a deal. Since every member of the cabinet except for Priti Patel and Theresa Villiers voted at least once for the deal, they can hardly be blamed for the fact that a no-deal Brexit now seems the only logical alternative.

“The so-called left-behind think, with some reason, that the exam-passing elite does not listen to them. I think they are right”.

The appalling “leg over” John Major, just who does he think he is, writes

“I promised that, if the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament in order to prevent Members from opposing his Brexit plans, I would seek judicial review of his action.

“In view of the imminence of the prorogation, and to avoid duplication of effort, and taking up the Court’s time through repetition, I intend to seek the Court’s permission to intervene in the claim already initiated by Gina Miller, rather than to commence separate proceedings.

“If granted permission to intervene, I intend to seek to assist the Court from the perspective of having served in Government as a Minister and Prime Minister, and also in Parliament for many years as a Member of the House of Commons.

“I will be represented by The Rt Hon The Lord Gamier QC and Tom Cleaver, who will be instructed by Herbert Smith Freehills LLP”.

Prorogation has historically been used by Attlee and Major, for political purposes. The move is even less surprising when taking into account the UK is currently enjoying the longest Parliamentary session ever since 1653, so a Queen’s Speech is long overdue.

House of Commons 18 March 1997 Simon Hughes MP “The Prime Minister yesterday made the uniquely personal decision not only to have a general election on 1 May and to dissolve Parliament on 8 April but that Parliament should be prorogued and sent away this Friday. [Interruption.] Is it not obvious that one of the reasons for that decision and for the unprecedented gap between prorogation and dissolution is that— [Interruption.]

“One of the reasons for that decision is that the Prime Minister knows that the report of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards on cash for questions will be ready on Monday or Tuesday. That report will therefore not be seen by hon. Members in this Parliament and will be hidden until after the general election.”

Prime Minister Major “One of the reasons for making the announcement on Monday and arranging for Parliament to be prorogued on Friday was to give the hon. Gentleman time to finish his question. As for Sir Gordon’s report, I have no knowledge when it will be presented”.

Meanwhile, a Scottish judge

has refused to order a temporary halt to Boris Johnson’s plan to shut down the UK Parliament. A group of 75 parliamentarians were seeking an interim interdict – similar to an injunction – at the Court of Session ahead of a full hearing.

Their request was declined by Lord Doherty, who said he was not satisfied there was a “cogent need” for an interdict. However the full hearing will now be heard next Tuesday, rather than Friday.

Lord Doherty told the court that it was in the interest of justice, and in the public interest, that the case, which is opposed by the UK government, proceeds sooner rather than later. He said “I am not satisfied that it has been demonstrated that there is a need for an interim suspension or an interim interdict to be granted at this stage.”

Brexit Derangement Syndrome?

Austin Mitchell writes

“Amazing good news, my wife’s new passport has arrived today. Spot the difference!

“Why bring a case in Scotland to stop Brexit? Bring a case before the European court demanding that the Commission negotiate legally as required in article 50-both divorce and trade arrangements at the same time- and stop a “no deal” Brexit.

“Phillip Hammond was clearly the man who wrecked Theresa May’s negotiation her career and her Government. Mighty Mouse Indeed!

“Can’t see why MPs want an opportunity to discuss Brexit when that’s all they’ve been doing for the last few months.

“Since only the EU can cause a “no deal” Brexit what arrangements are the noisy protesters making to use their influence and transfer their demos there, to persuade Brussels not to force one on UK?

“Can we be told whether the noisy protesters against Boris Johnson’s prorogation are against any form of Brexit or just a “no deal” Brexit. We should know so we can understand and judge accordingly.

“The more the Revolting Remainers assert that Parliament can and should reject no deal, the more they encourage the EU to refuse a deal. That’ll trap Boris between an intransigent EU and a clamourous Commons, neither of whom wants UK to leave at all.

“If you were carrying out a negotiation with a gang of intransigent, inflexible, devious, decision dodgers who can only say “no”, would you want a howling pack of parliamentary pillocks airing their egos by trying to trip you up and tie your hands behind you?”

Iain Dale writes

“Some people who have Brexit Derangement Syndrome have gone full tonto and likened it to a Latin American coup, or compared Boris Johnson to Hitler. Normal voters on both sides of the debate look on in bemusement and wonder if these politicians think we are stupid.

“We keep being told by people in the media who ought to know better that it’s the longest prorogation since the 1940s, conveniently omitting to point out that Parliament wouldn’t have been sitting for three weeks anyway due to the party conferences. Ah yes, says Lewis Goodall of Sky News, but you’re being disingenuous because MPs might have voted to sit during the party conferences.

“Might. That’s the key word. I doubt it very much. So now we are faced with the ludicrous spectacle of some MPs going to sit in Church House in a makeshift parliament. Who are they going to debate with? People they agree with? It’ll be the ultimate ‘massdebate’. If you get my drift…”

Words Have Consequences

Mark Wallace of Conservative Home

writes “The word Reichstag is now trending on Twitter,” noted the Observer’s Toby Helm.

“John Crace of the Guardian – fresh from a rather strained comparison between Nigel Farage and either Stalin or Hitler – retweeted a passage from The Handmaid’s Tale referring to the establishment of a theocratic dictatorship by a terrorist group via the suspension of the United States Constitution.

“Paul Mason told a crowd of Remain protesters in Westminster that “if Boris Johnson seizes power from Parliament, I promise you we will never have another free election in this country”, and got them to swear a bizarre oath that “at 12 o’clock on Saturday, we are coming for you, Boris Johnson”.

“The Independent declared the announcement of a Queen’s Speech prorogation a ‘coup’.

“Kate Osamor – the charming Labour MP who infamously told a Times reporter “I should have come down here with a bat and smashed your face in” – compared the Queen doing her perfectly proper constitutional duty by not meddling in politics to the last King of Greece’s active political involvement in sparking a military coup in his country.

“At a ‘#stopthecoup’ rally yesterday evening, Owen Jones, himself a recent victim of political violence, summoned up the imagery of the spilt ‘blood of our ancestors’ and branded the Prime Minister a ‘tinpot would-be dictator’. He tweeted that the issue was now a ‘war’ which ‘we are going to fight with everything we’ve got’ (though his column today urges ‘peaceful civil disobedience’).

“The Best For Britain campaign even suggested that the monarch ought to remember the fate of Charles I.

“Elsewhere in hardcore Remain circles, you could find every OTT analogy you might imagine. This was a mash-up of Peterloo and Kim Jong Un. It was Hitler’s Enabling Act revived. It was fascism, communism, and any other available totalitarianism, both historical and fictional.

“As I’ve written in the past, I don’t mind a vivid analogy or an emotive turn of phrase. I may even have been guilty of committing some myself on occasion. But haven’t we just spent years being told in ever more self-important tones that “words have consequences”, and therefore everybody must take great care in their speech?

“I can recall plenty of times hearing that the language of betrayal used by angry Brexiteers towards politicians who break their promises is actively dangerous; that military analogies or terms of any sort are equivalent to threats of violence; and that for a newspaper to characterise rebellious Tory MPs as ‘mutineers’ constituted a direct incitement of threats towards them.

“At times this crusade for more dull language has become even sillier. A year ago Owen Jones (the very same) protested that Chuka Umunna’s call for Jeremy Corbyn to ‘call off the dogs’ was part of ‘a dehumanising narrative used against…Labour members’. ‘Party members are not dogs,’ he noted, helpfully eliminating any lingering doubt.

“They can’t really have it both ways. What would the reaction of the above people be to Nigel Farage whipping up a crowd to chant ‘we are coming for you’ about a named political opponent? Or if pro-Brexit pressure groups tweeted darkly about the execution of the Queen? Would they see it as harmless to be accused not of being merely wrong but of being would-be dictators, on the very cusp of irreversibly establishing tyranny?

“Do they still believe that ‘words have consequences’ or is that only applied to words they disagree with?”

One Man’s Democracy Is Another Man’s Outrage?

The wretched remain Speaker John Bercow

 of all people, has accused Boris Johnson of committing a “constitutional outrage” after he confirmed he asked the Queen to suspend Parliament.

The news of Johnson’s planned prorogation has naturally sent Remainers, including Bercow, into fits of the vapours, calling the move “undemocratic“, “outrageous” and even comparing the PM to a “tin pot dictator” all for using a bog-standard procedural technique. Prorogation was used by Attlee and Major, for political purposes. The move is even less surprising when taking into account the UK is currently enjoying the longest Parliamentary session ever since 1653, so a Queen’s Speech is long overdue.

The Magna Carta

or Great Charter of the Liberties of England, was drawn up by the barons to force King John to sign in the year 1215. The spirit of this document has guided the evolution of English law over the centuries, as well as inspiring numerous constitutional documents drawn up by other countries, including notably the Constitution of the United States of America, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We now have a 2019 version!

Among other landmark bills that have established major new principles in the British Constitution are the English Bill of Rights, passed after the Glorious Revolution of 1689, and the Acts of Union, of 1707, establishing the linking of England and Scotland within a United Kingdom.

John Major’s prorogation, which he used to cover up the cash for questions scandal, lasted from the March 21 until the 1997 General Election, 6 weeks. Johnson’s prorogation will last for only 4 sitting days.

The utterly appalling EU official Guy Verhofstadt tweets

“Taking back control” has never looked so sinister. As a fellow parliamentarian, my solidarity with those fighting for their voices to be heard. Suppressing debate on profound choices is unlikely to help deliver a stable future EU – UK relationship”. They’ve had three years of uncontrolled debate aimed at stopping the democratic decision of the British public.