“I welcome the swift action taken by the UK and our allies. We must be united and strong in our response to Russia breaking international law by violating Ukrainian sovereignty,” tweets Jo Churchill, Tory MP for Bury St Edmunds, taking the rare risk of saying anything at all.
Her concern for sovereignty is quite new. Two years ago she wasn’t even concerned about the sovereignty of the UK. A group of concerned constituents tried to meet her to ask what had happened to the Russian Interference Report, which details Russia’s attempts to corrupt our own democracy. She was, as is her wont, unavailable.
Johnson has been at pains not to publish the report, given the suspiciously close ties between Russia and the Tories, and particularly with him. Churchill is rarely available to her constituents, unless they come in a docile group, bring a press photographer with them and don’t take up more than half an hour of her time. But on this occasion she was particularly keen not to be quoted, since her party is up to its nostrils in Russian roubles. Any criticism of Russia was therefore out of the question, as long as the Tories could continue trousering the moolah.
In the last few days of course, things have suddenly changed. The Russians are the baddies and No Show Jo risks a brief foray into the news via Twitter to show her solidarity with the Ukrainian people. Some though may feel sceptical about her being so supportive of the sovereignty of a European neighbour, when she felt so little about our own.
Her party brazenly takes Russian money while the Russians in turn take apart our country and undermine our democracy. There is a word for that.
Part of that same group of concerned citizens also approached their own MP, Matt Hancock, in the neighbouring constituency of West Suffolk. One has to admire their optimism. He has also expressed his support for Ukrainian sovereignty, whilst naturally declining to comment on the Russians undermining ours.
James Cleverly, Tory MP for Braintree, also insists Russian donations to his party are legitimate. He explains that the Russian motivation for such largesse is ‘to stop Jeremy Corbyn coming to power’. Now, imagine if you will the situation reversed, in which a Labour politician claims legitimacy for some dubious bung from the Kremlin on the grounds that it was ‘to stop Boris Johnson coming to power’. Would Comrade Cleverly have been so sanguine?
Meanwhile, Brandon Lewis, secretary of state for Northern Ireland and Tory MP for Great Yarmouth, has himself been the grateful recipient of Russian roubles – in fact £48,000 worth. The money comes apparently from two oligarchs with links to Putin. Lubov Chernukhin, a banker and wife of Putin’s former deputy finance minister donated £25,000, while former Russian arms dealer Alexander Temerko gave him £23,000.
Mr Lewis says they give money because “they see that a Conservative Party and a Conservative Prime Minister is the party that delivers for the United Kingdom”. Now, contrary to their reputation it is possible that Russian oligarchs are philanthropists to a man, driven only by goodwill to us all. If so, that would explain why the wellbeing of the British people is so important to them.
But if not, then one has to accept the possibility at least that what motivates them is that the Conservative Party is the party that delivers not for the United Kingdom but for the Kremlin.
How quaintly reads the contribution now of Jonathan Djanogly, Tory MP for Huntingdon, to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill in the House of Commons.
“Nothing in the Bill will stop us concerting our sanctions with any measures imposed by the EU, but if there is no agreement in the EU, as there often is not, Britain can act independently or alongside other allies. “
Indeed, which was no doubt uppermost in Boris Johnson’s mind at the time. (He was then foreign secretary.) It turns out there is no agreement between Britain and the EU, just as Djanogly suggested, and our allies not only in the EU but across the globe think Britain is Putin’s patsy. It is unfortunate that, at a time when news of Britain’s corruption makes front pages across the globe, only here is it considered inappropriate to mention it.
Links between Russia and John Whittingdale, Tory MP for Maldon are by now too numerous to mention, and some might only be made under parliamentary privilege. The good people of Maldon presumably elect their MP in the expectation that he will spend his time working for their benefit rather than perhaps his own or somebody else’s. Perhaps one day soon East Anglia Bylines might try to point out in detail how far those fond hopes are misplaced.
For now, we point you to an article from Byline Times:
But plaudits of a sort to one Tory who is not towing the new party line on Russia. Step forward Shayne Pooley, borough councillor for Gainsborough ward in Ipswich. Councillor Pooley is an ex UKIP member and his apparently confused political leanings should be understood in that context. Unfortunately we can no longer admire his enthusiastic commentary on how Putin is forcing Ukraine to have the independence they want by bombing them all to bejesus, since he has deleted it.
An appeal then, please, to any reader who lives in the Gainsborough ward, or knows somebody who does. Next time have a little care as to where you place your cross. Children can be amusing in the playground, but it is usually unwise to elect them to the council chamber.
We turn away from Russia and Ukraine, but to no less a sordid subject. Grant Shapps, Tory MP for Welwyn Hatfield and Secretary of State for Transport, is still one of those doggedly towing the party line of trying to smear Keir Starmer over links with failing to prosecute Jimmy Savile for his paedophile activities. Shapps also claims the mob attack on Starmer in Westminster was in no way influenced by Johnson’s scurrilous allegation (under parliamentary privilege) in the Commons the day before.
“Time consuming, expensive… a PR exercise”, was how Tory Councillor Barry Stone of Norfolk County Council described the idea of citizens’ assemblies. Now, there may be good reasons to hold reservations about their efficacy, but what is telling here is the disdain with which Councillor Stone holds them. After all, they are one way of bringing politics closer to the electorate and giving them greater involvement in decision making. So a disdain for providing the means for voters to become more involved seems a disdain for democracy itself. Disappointing, if not wholly surprising, but the remark only goes to illustrate how far our present democratic system is falling about our ears. Far too often, local politicians see the electorate as a necessary evil, something that has to be tolerated in elections now and again, rather than the whole purpose of their being there.
“Let them hear us roar!” cry The People’s Assembly in Peterborough. This group is new to Pecksniff, but they make the perfectly reasonable point that they will shortly not be able to afford to live. Tory MP Paul Bristow naturally assumes these troublemakers must all be from the Labour Party. But he would be well advised to consider that the number of Peterborough voters contemplating the choice between freezing and starving will well exceed the size of his last parliamentary majority.
More about the People’s Assembly in future.
Meanwhile, over the border in Norfolk it is once again Kings Lynn who are on the march, this time the people of Gaywood Parkway. The open land which they treasure is threatened by a rather dubious proposal to build 200 houses on it. This is in spite of the risk of flooding. Councillor Rob Colwell points out that the council’s own document warns residents in the event of flooding “to seek refuge at the upper floors on site”. It is perhaps unlikely that this special feature would be advertised in the developers’ glossy brochures.
Finally it’s back to Cambridgeshire County Council and the publication this week of the ‘Farmgate’ report. To quote from the document:
“An independent investigation has concluded that former Cambridgeshire County Council deputy leader Roger Hickford breached the Council’s Code of Conduct in six different areas (as per para 1.10) – including bullying, improper use of his position and bringing the council into disrepute.
Councillor Sebastian Kindersley, chair of the constitution and ethics committee, declares:
“It gives me no pleasure to receive this full and very detailed independent report into the conduct of a former councillor of this authority – however it is right and proper to have commissioned it, and to put it fully into the public domain today.
“Former councillor and deputy leader of this authority Roger Hickford has been found to have breached the Council’s Code of Conduct in seven different areas. In doing so he has not only damaged his own reputation but has cast doubt on the integrity of elected Members in general, which is inexcusable.
“Residents have a right to expect those who stand for election to public office do so out of a desire to serve others, not to serve themselves. This investigation found Mr Hickford’s behaviour fell far below the standards expected for those in public life.”
So bully for Cambridgeshire County Council in acting to remove one rotten apple, and so set an example for other councils. CCC sound sincere in their plans to put their house in order, and Pecksniff will be delighted to report on their progress.
But what would a Mr Pecksniff’s Diary be without an embarrassed glance at the latest shenanigans of the astonishing Liz Truss, our foreign secretary and MP for South West Norfolk?
My dears, what does she look like? Why did nobody tell her? Somewhere in her retinue, do not doubt, there is someone called a ‘personal stylist’, whose perilous job it is to make her boss look like a world statesperson. It must have sounded terribly chic in the job advertisement. Little did the poor person realise they would have to spend their time telling Ms Truss that she has her skirt caught up in her knickers.