The Immanent Gove

Michael Gove today penned a piece in the Times suggesting that he had access to Mrs May’s latest thoughts, indeed the very words she might utter in only a matter of days.Quite apart from the irritation of finding senior politicians jumping on the bandwagon of false news, his piece simply repeats arguments that were surely sorted out at about 8am on 24th June.

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I think much of what he thinks the PM will say will remain wishful thinking, but it is still deeply mistaken and misleading.

I think Mr Gove’s greatest mistake lies in a misunderstanding of what it means to lead the country, something he aspired to do and that Mrs May is now doing. Mr Gove thinks that what matters is “the truth”, but truth is a relative and constantly changing concept. What matters instead is “responsibility”, or “trust”. I think this is a single concept though expressed in two words. For it is not possible to have one without the other. It is something Mr Gove failed to earn and, moreover, a concept that is much bigger than the referendum and certainly bigger than Brexit. It is about doing the right thing at the right time and with confidence. Today, when Brexit is presented, a number of politicians, and certainly Mr Gove, seem to abandon not only reality and rational thought but also a belief in the primacy of Parliament for naive demagogy as if they are still not sure they won, and have to rehash the same arguments over and over again.

Put bluntly, has Mr Corbyn not been a sufficient warning to you?

Mr Gove sets the tune of his piece by referring to Ronald Reagan and Mrs Thatcher. Reagan’s plan for the cold war- “Simple — we win; they lose.” But that is not quite how it panned out, was it! Let’s look back a little further:

While France and America embraced revolution, Britain quietly changed from one leader to another. The “glorious revolution” may not be quite all it was cracked up to be, but it demonstrates a way of behaving that Mr Gove absolutely forgets. Revolutions, if pursued relentlessly, are out for blood and that has not been the British way. We want to forge a quiet rethinking of the status quo, and if possible, seemlessly merge from one form of rule to another, maybe, if absolutely necessary with a mild embellishment to the union flag.

Mrs May is quite right in repeating her mantra that “Brexit means Brexit” just as she is quite right in being tight-lipped about exactly how that will play out. Even if she triggers the process in a month, we still must wait two years for that act to play out, and during that time, much of the Europe we know today will have changed beyond recognition. Catalonia lingers, Le Pen lies in the penumbra of perceptual power and Germany smoulders with discontent to say nothing of Greece, badgered and badgered until it is made to feel like a poodle puddled in the Aegean. The only thing that we can be certain about is the Responsibility Mrs May has been given as our leader and the trust we place in her.

What I find most disturbing is the claim that we know what “the electors wanted” when they voted for Brexit. The fact is, we can never know just as we can never know what they wanted when they voted for Mr Corbyn. All we have is the result which in and of itself says nothing about immigration, control of borders, the single market, hard or soft Brexit. It is simply a mandate for leaving the current arrangement, a recognition that the EU as it stands is failing. A referendum is not a result in itself – it needs interpreting and circumstances will change. That is inevitable.

Also, though I hesitate to point this out, the Brexit vote was far from uniform throughout the country and a clever Brexit will allow for, and placate the 48% who voted to retain our place in Europe.

But I hope we are fast approaching the day when we will stop hearing what Politicians think the electors voted for. No one really knows. Equally the obsession with anticipating the way we leave Europe needs to stop. We need to leave the negotiating team to do its job.

The obsession, drummed up in part by people like Mr Gove and Mr Farage, about how we leave in fact allows Brussels to avoid the full force of the blow of that Referendum decision. Indeed, this obsession gives a platform to Mr Junker, who rather than falling on his sword as one of the architects of modern Brussels, can join Gove and Farage and pontificate about HOW we should be going. What folly for Junker to be mocking Milord, when his own house is burning down.

Mr Gove gave a tv interview a few weeks ago and demonstrated what a thoughtful, centred man he really is. I do not understand, therefore, why he needs to play to the gallery like this when what we really need is his keen intellect and analytic support at the centre of Government. What Mrs May does not yet say is that any form of Brexit means a re-ordering of Europe because she knows the European project is bigger than the EU. Because the future of Europe and the role it will play beside us is as much our concern as the manner in which Britain will be defined two years’ hence.

John Donne writes,

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No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.

As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:

Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

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The Garage is empty

Just as the Prime Minister promises a new future, the past turns up like a soiled doily, that simply refuses to flush away.

Farage returns as a tired revamp of Dracula AD 72, proving as last time that there is no trusting this man whether he promises to resign or not. Is this “Farage the sequel”,”Farage returns”, “Farage 3” or “Farage forever”? No, after Brighton, this is a man whose tag is, “just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water”! And the Farage mouth is again snapping at the anchorman. With this one difference- this is Farage without teeth. He sums up, as ever, the fate of his party.

The toothless, wizened, tired spectre of Farage. The empty shall of a wide-mouthed man. The garage with the door ajar and the sprightly jag gone.

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For me, one of the entertaining aspects of the story is to see Paul Oakden, a man I knew as Farage’s henchman, lording it over the media as the UKIP chairman, desperate to square the circle that is Diane James. Oakden, once physically a pale reflection of Paul Nuttall, has embraced stubble above and below the hairline but he remains the same Oakden. What a long way he has come in such a short time! Only just 18 months ago, he was the man delegated to silence me. He was the man making promises on behalf of his leader that neither he nor Farage have so far honoured. I have long since given up hope that either will keep their word, and I fear I am not the only one.

Has no one told Farage about the boy who cried wolf? Resignation is a card you can play once. It is not a game of snap!

Thank God, then for Boris, who may not now lead the Conservatives, but who certainly put a spoke in the UKIP wheel and left it immobilised. It is a bike with a broken wheel, and today, without a viable saddle. Today, we see one more tumble in the slow-motion crash that has been Boris’s masterstroke! Boris took on the mantle of Farage: He might have feared it was poisoned and that like some Herculean hero, he would go down fighting, but he took that risk and went down in style, eclipsing Farage in every way. I think history will be kind to Boris, because after the current aborted resurrection, Farage, barely human, even after exposing himself in Brighton, leads a pitiful ghost of a party, with little aim, precious value and a heightened reputation for thuggishness and deceit at the highest level.

I joined UKIP because I feared a party led by Farage was one of the biggest dangers to the UK today and I could not sit idly by. I also felt that some of its aims were laudable enough, particularly its fondness for Grammar schools, though I have always been less comfortable with Brexit itself, but the die is now cast. Today, however, we celebrate the collapse of the party that set Brexit in motion. Who wants to lead this mess? Certainly not Diane James. And it is clear the party does not want Suzanne Evans, dumped unceremoniously last year; Stephen Woolfe was tricked out of the ballot only this year and the only sitting MP, a man of great principle, despite his ditching the party that made him electable in the first place, Douglas Carswell is himself as itchy as poisoned ivy. At their conference, fellow UKIPpers kept a safe distance even when he promised loyalty to the new leader. That did not last long! It is only when everyone doubts your allegiance that anyone ever expects you to pledge it.

So, while I might bemoan the loss of her majesty’s loyal opposition in the nonsense peddled by Mr Corbyn and his cronies, there is only one word that comes to mind about UKIP and it is Thatcher’s: “Rejoice!“ Simply rejoice!

 

 

David Davis

I despair of the way politicians believe they must make binding statements about things! Today, not that surprisingly, David Davis has weighed in against the admirable Nicola Sturgeon to rule out her proposition that it might be possible for Scotland to remain in some form within the EU while yet also remaining within the UK. I had been saying the same thing actually since the referendum result so of course I think the First Minister’s idea is both sound and clever.

Mr Davis loves to be negative. I think what he says does not quite do the the man justice, because I know he has shown a lot of personal kindness to gay MPs in difficulties with the media while yet maintaining a defiance about the repeal of Section 28 and also voting against the gay marriage act. I think, in that strange gurgling voice that must be an imitation of the great, late Daniel Massey, he likes to sound decisive. (he even goes on record supporting the death penalty)

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I think, however, that politics is about being ready to change our opinions. If this were not the case, then there would be no point debating stuff in the Commons. We might as well just read out speeches from some grand podium instead. Our British democratic tradition is based on our capacity to adapt to realities. The reality now is that the BREXIT decision has been made in England, though the same is far from certainly the case in Scotland, Gibraltar and Northern Ireland where an overwhelming majority voted to Remain. A clever politician recognises this tension and moves forward. Theresa May did just that (she is a unionist) in her first speech and then, more directly, (she would listen to any options) when she went up to Edinburgh. I was optimistic – until Davis started to pontificate.

Because Davis feels he still needs to win the referendum debate. To quote the great Healey, “What a silly billy” he is being! He has been dealt an Ace and he is still fiddling around with his Knaves. We have heard his points before. They were all made in the Referendum debate- which he won! We now want to hear something else. We do not expect a Minister to be a trained parrot and certainly not one peddled by Farage pet supplies.

This spurred the First Minister to declare that a second referendum could be as early as Next year. Especially if at the point of triggering Article 50, the first Minister is not “on board”:

“I will have an independence referendum if I come to conclusion that is in the best interests of Scotland. I’ve always said that. It would be up to Scottish people ultimately to decide if that is right way to go.”

She told Andrew Marr,

“I think the positive outcome of the meeting I had with the prime minister on Friday was that she said she was prepared to listen to options that the Scottish government would bring forward to give effect to how Scotland voted and we will certainly bring forward options. Let’s see what progress we can make.” Don’t you love this woman!

I hope to God that the wise women here win this discussion, because the testosterone-driven declarations of Davis do no one any good.

Importance of History

I attended an exhibition day on Wednesday at my old school, Ratcliffe College, and I was able to publicly thank the outgoing headmaster Gareth Lloyd for the spectacular turnaround in the School’s fortunes over the 7 years he has held the post. I will post some of my talk at a later date but the key point in all the speeches throughout the day made by the Headmaster, Fr President, the Chairman of the Governors and coincidentally by me too, was the importance of kindness. That is something that has been conspicuously absent in the referendum debate and the subsequent and chaotic fallout as politicians have scrambled over one another to sabotage the future.

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The occasion at Ratcliffe was, of course, dominated by talk of Brexit and quite alot of discussion about UKIP and my role in the UKIP story. (I think some people had rather cleverly checked me out on the internet) I was fairly honest in my response: while there are many good people attracted to UKIP and while its leader remains one of the few great orators in the country, it is, nevertheless, controlled by a balding militant thuggery snatched from the BNP and NF. This may have been a party ruled by bullies and twits, but it also attracted spectacular and honourable people like Douglas Carswell and Councillor Sean Connors. I count Sean as a good friend and a very honourable man. I also have time for Mark Reckless, now a member of the Welsh assembly. Credit where credit is due.farage ukipper flat

I joined UKIP with the intention of playing a leading role in the way it developed, or identifying and exposing the racism that everyone told me was there. In fact, I was offered both opportunities at about the same time. I chose to expose the racism.

The rise in racist and extremist abuse since the Referendum means that there are many who believe the racism in UKIP is endorsed by the “Leave” result. It is not, and there are many people in UKIP, who would be appalled by the suggestion that they have anything to do with, or would ever condone racism. More than that, there is extremism on both sides: my point is that it feels it has been sanctioned, and that is a message that needs to be addressed and condemned.

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As a Conservative, I find the libertarian aims of UKIP fairly laudable, but this is mixed with long-standing and often ill-considered ravings about the EU that in the end informed and dictated the tone of the recent referendum as well as giving structure to Conservative euro-scepticism, whether Farage was part of the official Leave campaign or not. I was in some difficulty throughout the campaign because I believed and continue to believe that, while the EU is seriously damaged, the European project, nevertheless, and because of our shared history, remains a fundamentally sound one. I felt that the Remain campaign was emphasising the wrong things (fear and greed), appealing to the wrong people (experts) and singing to a songsheet promoted by Farage. In the few debates I attended, the “remain” pitch was made by people peddling weak claims about something that had long since been dismissed as folly. In contrast some brilliant people, particularly our local MP Chris Heaton Harris, made a reasoned and impassioned case for “Leave”. And Chris was fairly unique in specifically saying he would not play the immigration card. If Chris had dictated the terms of the debate, I would have been a “Be-Leaver”. Indeed, at Chris’s encouragement, I contributed animated adverts at no cost specifically to draw attention to the appalling treatment by Europe of our fishing industry, something we must address whether we are “in” or “out”.

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I was also appalled and have spoken and written about the abuse of Greece by Germany in particular (Greece had a referendum and Europe made it have another when the result was judged to be “wrong”). Our debate about Sovereignty was made clearer by seeing the sovereignty of Greece ripped away.

But it was Farage’s silence over racism and his indulgence of the powerful thugs in his party that convinced me this campaign would head in the wrong direction and that we might threaten or might leave Europe for the wrong reasons sending a very confused message. This has proven to be the case. The overall debate was controlled by Farage, and while Boris fought hard to wrestle the mantle from his shoulders, he must have found it tough to swallow the nonsense about Turkey’s accession and the £350 million that now Farage says he never endorsed (It was, nevertheless, in the literature I was given a year ago by UKIP). Believe me, I would have done the same thing – Boris had no choice and to his credit, I think, and in the end, Boris made the Leave campaign his own. More than that, he managed personally to avoid any hint of racism and indeed, as far as he was able, temper the debate.

I feared that whoever brought down a man as powerful as Farage was unfortunately doomed. And my fears have been fulfilled. Boris is a brave and noble man. He has taken one for the team.

BECAUSE there could have been nothing worse than giving Farage a place at the negotiating table or rewarding him with a role in government. Knight him and let him leave!

Farage demonstrated to me last year very clearly that he is a man wholly without honour and that those who follow his lead, also abandon honour and integrity. When one of his elected cronies made a foul and public racist comment against a sitting politician, Farage dismissed it as a joke.

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More than that, when I took a stand to support Humza Yousaf, the Scottish minister for Europe, my family was attacked by a sinister local UKIP councillor who thought that a smear and a distortion of facts was an effective and proper response to my resignation. He offered no apology, and nor did his master, Farage.

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Both promised to write to me after the election and neither did. Both promised to resign and neither did. Both said exactly what they thought the public wanted to hear at the time and then they did their own thing. This is demagogy and not democracy.

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Referendums

People do not always read the lessons of history. For example, both Napoleon and Hitler turned to the Plebiscite, today’s “referendum” to justify their actions. It may be a tool for democracy but it is also a weapon of tyranny. Today, the web is filled with cries of “foul”, and whimpers from people who felt they voted the wrong way, and now regret their vote, or claim that 63% of the youth vote simply did not bother to vote. Some people blame Jeremy Corbyn and others blame the Glastonbury festival for that!

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A blueprint for tomorrow

But the Leave vote has happened and we should be looking forward to finding solutions that reflect the reality – ensuring at the same time that Scotland, Ireland and Gibraltar are fully anchored to the UK, and also keep their place in Europe. There is even a case for London to retain its place as the financial hub of the EU while at the same time, pulling back the tide of EU bureaucracy from the shires. The EU is either a supra-national entity or it is dependent on the Nation-state. I think this is an opportunity to show the way the EU can work around Nationality and work with rather than against National and regional sovereignty. It should not be a case of choosing the EU over our nation but of accommodating both if necessary and at various levels of association. This is also a blueprint for establishing fully devolved and fully accountable local parliaments. I wrote a few days ago about the absurdity of pitching Nationalism against Federalism. Actually, with some flexibility and some grace, we can embrace the best of both.

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Our contribution to the EU

There are points to be made in favour of Europe and we may have to visit these over the negotiations. We need to look at ways to effect reconciliation rather than to drive a hard-bargain and we need to emphasise our overall contribution to the European project rather than posture as Farage has done and claim that European ministers have never had proper jobs. At the top of the list of contributions we have made to Europe is the Charter of human rights, the very thing that irritated so many people in my own party. The draft for this was written by a man called Maxwell Fyfe who became the Conservative Home secretary in Churchill’s peace-time cabinet. This was seen as the bedrock of a new EU-wide set of values, and it became our own in time. It was a British vision that anticipated the repeal of hanging, the institution of equality laws and the eradication of torture. This is a cornerstone to the modern Europe and I have successfully taken a case through the ECHR and helped to redefine the way the law is interpreted both internationally and nationally. I have a personal stake in this Charter.

Our role in History

More than that, I believe we have consistently gone to the aid of Europe in crisis, and to that end, fought two wars in Europe. Today, the Greek sovereignty issue is demonstration enough of the depth of crisis in Europe. Immigrants come and go and the immigration issue is actually a passing problem while the sovereignty issue drives to the heart of current EU abuse. It is not a time to be turning our back on Brussels but a time to engage fully with what happens across the channel and ensure that a long term-view, and that fairness, common-sense and goodwill are paramount. When Lord Fyfe wrote the charter, we were not a member of the EU. That clearly did not prevent us from playing a decisive role in the way the EU was established and the values it promoted.

Our Future

Whatever our legal relationship with the EU project, I think we should be determined to  play a pivotal role in securing the values we hold dear. It is in Europe’s interest and in ours to see that Europe works properly. It is not working properly now and nor are we. We can both do better and we need to work together.

Federalism vs Nationalism

As I write, I note that Lord Feldman is stepping down as Chairman of the Conservative party at the same time David Cameron quits in October. Their successors will have quite a juggling act ahead, because whatever Britain does next, the mess in our own backyard across the channel shows no signs of going away. They are victims of something that has been going on for about 20 years now.

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Today’s BREXIT news is just one example, albeit a dramatic one, of the collision between Federalism and Nationalism that has been building up for a few years now across the EU, and looks set to continue with the Spanish referendum, as well as calls in France for a referendum and a revival in Greece of GREXIT ambitions as a third bailout inches forward.

We could try some cod-psychology and say that the rise of Nationalism is a response to some wider global phenomenon, but the truth is that we have no way, at the moment, of judging where it comes from, except that across Europe and beyond, there is a genuine wave of far-right activism, seen most strikingly in the recent Presidential election in Austria, while Jobbik has had tremendous success in Hungary (where it organises a uniformed guard to police Roma areas), as has Poland’s “Law and Justice” Government which came to power in October, the Swiss People’s party, Marine Le Pen’s Front national, the “Freedom party”in the Netherlands, and the Danish People’s party scoring 21% in the last election- Then there are “The Finns”, the Sweden Democrats and down in Greece, the abominable Χρυσή Αυγή as well as our own UKIP here in the UK. I am not sure about how Nationalist is “Our Slovakia” but it did quite well in the last election, and, of course, Germany has its own Nationalist party called “Alternative for Germany” AfD, led by a fairly ferocious woman called Frauke Petry who thinks it is legitimate to shoot refugees (“the use of armed force is there as a last resort”) and that women (I assume she means German women) should have at least three children. there are less successful but equally vocal right wing movements in Italy (the Northern League), the IRL in Estonia, the LDPR in Russia, Slovak Nationalists, Attack, Svoboda, Serbian Radicals and the HČSP, otherwise known rather worryingly as the Croatian “Pure” Party founded by war criminal Ante Pavelic which currently says it is against “NATO, the EU and Gay Marriage”.

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There has also, oddly, at about the same time, been a surge in committed socialism as seen in the rise of Tsipras and Corbyn, two people who I am sure mean well but who manage power with a spectacular mix of arrogance and incompetence. The arrogance comes from the size of the  popular vote that thrust them into office (we should be careful not to confuse legitimacy with popularity) and the incompetence- well, that is clearly a natural gift in each case. Both have a certain charm. I might enjoy having these men round for tea, and I am sure their conversation would be tremendous fun, but I would not trust either to run my country. Indeed, I think neither Tsipras nor Corbyn ever expected to be elected and so both could offer all manner of promises and absurdities to their respective electorate that they now have to make good and neither was fully prepared for the job. Today, both men seem mostly committed to dithering or forgetting to wear a proper tie.

Modern Europe has also seen a rise in political idealism, what I imagine Mrs Thatcher would have called “Federalism”, most notably in the personnas of Tusk, Jean-Claude Juncker and of Frau Merkel, all of whom, I think, are deeply mistaken in the way they see the European project and their own roles within it. Of course, with hindsight, I am sure they might have surrendered more to David Cameron in the months before the Referendum, but that is the problem with so many of these people- they are locked into a belief that their own ideology, and their own authority moreover, whether European, far Right or far left, is of paramount importance to their overall identity. People are bigger than these passing belief structures, and the only way to tackle such ideologues is to be big enough to bend slightly. The EU was defeated by BREXIT because it was perceived to be undemocratic and inflexible, which quite bluntly is a valid belief.

I think it does not automatically now fall to others within the EU to sort out its future. We still have a role to play in what happens, and we have an interest in the way our neighbours operate. It can no longer be “business as usual” and it is not just about our future!

It pains me to say

Much of what Farage says here is right, particularly about his reservations and warnings about the Euro- “through massive ambition and hubris, you ploughed on.”

I was in Greece in the run-up to the Millenium and the Euro project there was clearly a disaster hidden beneath a carpet of half-truths. But while Farage thinks we should walk away now the damage has been done, I think we should hang around and clear up the mess.

So much of what Farage says is reasonable, and of course brilliantly done- from a rhetorical point of view, he is a master of the verbal put-down and the jocular aside. But then he does a typically Farage thing and says he is walking out, never to return. But we know Farage from last year, when his resignation then turned out to be just a two week holiday following his unplanned defeat in the elections. Time to lick his wounds perhaps but not time enough to reflect on what the electorate had told him.

While I accept his comments about the hubris of those who drove the Euro, and while I share his concerns about the EU and its future, I hasten to add I have drawn different conclusions, partly because of his failure to eradicate racism in his own party, his endorsement of views that might well be taken to be racist, and his inability to control the thugs in his own backyard.

UKIP is the only party in the UK to embrace a libertarian view, and that is attractive, – more than that, there are excellent people in the party (not least Douglas Carswell, but I hope the option remains for him to return to the fold) – but it is too wide a church and the BPMers who infiltrated its ranks have been both tolerated and advanced to the detriment of others. (What was Sajjid Karim thinking of when he talked about “dealing” with Farage- I hope he was not suggesting violence and I am sure he was not- but no doubt that’s the way Farage would interpret it! We do not want to encourage the thuggery surely!)  If Farage is walking out of the EU, then, thank God, but recent history suggests he is not to be trusted to follow-through with this!

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