“People made the decision. We’re just trying to make the best of it.” That’s how one political commentator summed up the government’s present position on Brexit.
So now even the government is squeamish about admitting it supports what a growing and angry majority of the population admits was a catastrophic error. Meanwhile, Keir Starmer’s soundbite is “Making Brexit work”. So: “Making the best of it” versus “Making Brexit work”… And the difference is? Starmer’s nomenclatura will now don their Dominican robes and, with St Thomas Aquinas, argue about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.
The position taken by EAB and illustrated by our much admired series ‘Our place in Europe?’ promotes the view that our only proper (and honest) place in Europe is in committing ourselves to the acquis communautaire. We have to give up cherry picking, trying to do sly deals. Britain has to grow out of being the Arthur Daley of European diplomacy. European hosts shouldn’t have to count the spoons after every visit by a British minister.
We could argue about just how deluded, racist and xenophobic we are as a nation, and sooner or later we have to confront those traits. But as long as we’re making inroads into generations of xenophobia and stupidity, we may still join the EU again with that as a work in progress. Those traits are most represented among the elderly, with views framed by the war and what went before. That world view doesn’t exist among the young, and in very few years they will have forgotten what Brexit was all about – just wonder why on earth they are at such a disadvantage with the rest of Europe. They will demand change.
With nobody at all trying to champion the Brexit cause except apoplectic retired Telegraph columnists in the more remote parts of Cheshire, there will simply be no opposition to our joining the EU again. The fight will go on for the full principles of the acquis, but with no opposition. Reality will simply be accepted, perhaps with a shrug. Any remaining primitives will grumble but will also have forgotten what all the arguments were about.
It seems the environment secretary Therese Coffey (Suffolk Coastal) is tipping the wink to water companies to give up their net zero responsibilities and concentrate on keeping down water charges. Not, you will note, giving up discharging sewage into rivers. But fear not, she is on the case. She held a local ‘round table’ meeting on sewage in the River Deben. But if the phrase is supposed to imply a discussion representing all points of view, then it was misplaced. She forgot to invite any of the local councillors, who these days happen to be Liberal Democrat and Green. They had no idea it was happening.
They only found out by chance, when Green Councillor Sally Noble happened upon a little tableau of Dr Coffey and a few hangers-on, down by Woodbridge quay, in the middle of an attempted photo opportunity. And oh look, there’s the Environment Agency! And isn’t that Anglian Water? They were being ‘interviewed’ by what seems to have been a government apparatchik, describing what a conscientious job they are all doing.
But it is unwise to annoy Cllr Noble. “My blood was boiling!” she declares. Wickham Market’s finest strode forward to confront the hapless plotters, while her son filmed the ensuing scene – in spite of a Coffey minder frantically trying to prevent him. Dr Coffey stood about like a ventriloquist’s dummy without the ventriloquist. You will see from the film that the bovine stolidity she adopts in TV interviews couldn’t help her here.
On Anglian Water’s poisoning of the river, Dr Coffey mutters uncomfortably that “There is work going on”.
“Where is it then?” demands Cllr Noble. A painful pause as Dr Coffey chews a wasp… “It hasn’t started yet…”
Therese Coffey’s plan for an open discussion which specifically excludes her critics closely resembles the model she uses for holding public meetings. Those interested in attending have to apply by submitting their names. They are presumably checked against the Tory party’s canvass returns, and only Tory voters are invited. (If this isn’t the procedure, no doubt Dr Coffey will put us right.)
Even then, the selected invitees are only given a date for the event. The time and venue is kept secret and only revealed just before the meeting.
Incidentally, journalists need not apply. Dr Coffey and the local hacks tend not to be on speaking terms.
Meanwhile, Therese Coffey’s constituents continue to vent their frustrations about their MP in what has become the usual way.
It is regrettable that we should stoop to lavatory humour, dear reader, but we are where we are. This time it involves Kemi Badenoch (Saffron Walden), who can think of no better use of her time as secretary of state for business and trade and minister for equalities than to feature in a headline blaring “Government announces crackdown on gender-neutral toilets”.
Ms Badenoch tells the Evening Standard: “These proposals will ensure every new building in England provides separate male and female or unisex facilities, and publish guidance to explain the difference”.
Publish guidance? Perhaps some kind reader will explain to your correspondent the difference between a “gender-neutral” toilet, which sounds as though anybody can use it and is apparently a bad thing and should be banned; and a unisex toilet, which one assumes is open to all, and is definitely good.
Readers may recall fondly those halcyon days when it was possible to go for a pee without reading a book of rules and instructions first.
Now this is the bit which ideally would require a lengthy interlude at the Muckrakers before your diarist can face it. The latest on Nadine Dorries (Mid Beds).
Our Nads has become something of a figure of fun, unless of course you are one of her unfortunate constituents. Anyway, it’s not at all the role she had in mind. “Your Ladyship” and all that forelock tugging and ‘Keep your dirty hands off the ermine” was the ticket she envisaged. Instead, sniggering TV reporters pretend to search for her at a bus stop – a bus stop! – and those once loyal voters hang banners from trees demanding “Dosser Dorries Out”!
The headbangers who watch GBNews have voted she should be thrown out, the Commons are looking for ways to achieve that, but of La Dorries there is not a whiffle. It is believed she spends her time at her home in the Cotswolds – never of course anywhere near Bedfordshire, though there has been a rumoured sighting of her in a restaurant in Wilmslow.
There will no doubt be lots of those now. How long before a red top announces she has been seen on the Moon?
This week has seen the greatest example in history of pots calling kettles black. Priti Patel (Witham) was the worst home secretary since the Marquess of Buckingham lost Ireland to his butler in a game of Scrabble. Yet on Monday she attacked her successor, Suella Braverman, for her plans to house asylum seekers at Wethersfield, a disused RAF base which just happens to impact on her own constituency.
But what’s she up to then, eh? She can’t seriously expect there will be another Tory government, let alone a prime minister eccentric enough to give her the old job back. So what are her concerns? She has no interest in being a conscientious constituency MP – there’s neither fun nor money in that. But if she is sucking up to the voters, it sounds as though she’s keen to remain an MP. Can she really have her eyes set on party leadership still? The last attempt was catastrophic and never got off the ground, since it came at a time she was so traumatized by her successive cock-ups she refused even to take parliamentary questions. But it looks as though we have the first contender…
Steve Barclay (NE Cambs) and also the health secretary, usually wears the expression of a man who has just been told his flight has been delayed for the third time, and that look came in handy when he was expressing outrage at the increase in NHS waiting in Wales, (which of course is under Labour jurisdiction). Only it wasn’t true, as was pointed out by the interviewer.
And we must assume it was knowingly wrong, since there were two further incidents this week in which Mr Barclay seemed to be making up statistics as he went along.
There is a distinct antisemitic tone in some of the writing of Nick Timothy, who has just been chosen as the prospective Conservative parliamentary candidate for West Suffolk. It may be coincidental or careless, and no doubt Mr Timothy would deny any such thing. No aspersion is intended, but it is not asking too much to require him to take more care in expressing his ideas. The people of West Suffolk deserve to know who and what they are being asked to vote for – especially after Matt Hancock.
It was Mr Timothy who came up with the “citizens of nowhere” jibe for Theresa May, to support his – supposedly her – position on Brexit. It is just possible he didn’t know that the phrase has loud echoes of how Hitler described the Jews. But then there is the hounding of George Soros. Mr Soros is the perfect hate figure for many antisemites and their theories of international conspiracies: a hugely wealthy Jew who is a philanthropist to left wing and libertarian causes. Perhaps Mr Timothy’s hate is restricted only to the causes, but he is in danger of keeping some very murky company.
Pecksniff is grateful to Private Eye this week for coming up with the skinny on Brandon Lewis (Gt Yarmouth). Mr Lewis is one of those many MPs who one always intends to get round to if one’s duties at the Muckrakers were not so onerous.
We are therefore reminded that in what little time may be left to him, Mr Lewis is making the most of his opportunities. During this parliament he has declared 64 “financial interests”, which is to say donations or outside earnings. During this calendar year, Mr Lewis has spoken just three times in the Commons, including in an adjournment debate (which he set up) on “small and medium sized enterprises: Great Yarmouth”. During his contribution he strayed well beyond constituency interests to applaud and demand support for the housebuilding industry.
Thakeham Homes is one of those many donors and sources of outside income, and pays him £60,000 a year.
Next week, Pecksniff will be peering into the murky attempts to mislead the electorate by producing spurious ‘newspapers’, and would be grateful to hear from readers who have been the fortunate recipients of such publications.
Thanks this week go to Elaine Parkin.