Three Last Things

Three issues have dominated this week. The first is the vote in the House of Lords that frankly at this stage comes across as self-indulgent and posturing, and the second is the continued failure of Mr Corbyn. I think the two things are linked. It is, of course, Corbyn who should have questioned whether the Government’s current approach to Brexit is “unreal and optimistic”, but it fell to Sir John Major to make that point and in those words. In both cases, of the Lords and Corbyn, there is a manifestation of ideology over realism, and this is not good for the way we are seen in Europe. At  a time when we need to be united and strong, we look divided and weak. That brings me to the third point which is “Indy 2” and Nicola Sturgeon’s flirtation with yet another referendum.

A change is always an opportunity for a fresh start. I wish more had been achieved between Mrs May and Nicola Sturgeon at the beginning of Mrs May’s premiership. But when article 50 is triggered that is also a significant change and a time once again to mend fences and move forward. I hope we are ready for that and Mrs May has shown with her visit to the US that she is ready to bite the bullet! Certainly, there is an opportunity to think of flexibility in the way Brexit is implemented across the UK and Nicola Sturgeon’s recommendations should perhaps be taken seriously. At the same time, her threats to break up the Kingdom are foolish because she cheapens what amounts to a solution by tying it too strongly to the tails of her Independence kite.

nicola sturgeon

As for the EU citizenship thing-

For what it is worth, I think we should have offered unilateral residency to all EU citizens currently in the UK and it should not have been dependent on what Mrs Merkel agreed or thought. The Lords agrees with me, now, though my argument has actually hardly been mentioned- specifically I have argued that granting citizenship now effectively offers no more than is already on the table, but it signals so much more and it provides security. It is the right thing to do. Because, by the time Brexit is negotiated and implemented, almost all those here on the date of the referendum would have qualified anyway for British residency, assuming they have collected the relevant paperwork. I also think, incidentally, such an offer would have established a claim to the moral high-ground, would have been a show of goodwill at a time when there is already and going to be a good deal of nastiness and would have put pressure on Brussels to match our goodwill removing this issue from the negotiations. We could not be blamed for using people as leverage, and we could have got on with the important issues of how we will do trade and politics together. There are better things to negotiate than this issue of citizenship and we need all the goodwill we can muster to get the best deal. More to the point, while I am mindful of the 900,000 Brits abroad, the fact remains that they are spread over diverse countries each with its own naturalisation processes. The EU does not have a “one-size fits all” approach to granting citizenship. For example, in Greece, citizenship might well come packaged with demands for military conscription. We would have done well to have set the terms for this debate, but we missed that opportunity. Whatever the Lords recommend at this stage is all a bit late and it looks shabby. If this offer was to have been on the table at all, to be effective, it needed to have been divorced from Mrs May’s triggering of article 50.

Bluntly, whether an undertaking by Britain now to grant unilateral citizenship to 3 million EU residents when or just after we trigger article 50, amounts to much the same thing and Theresa May is right: At this stage, it must become part of the package of Article 50 negotiations, because that is how it will now be perceived. We missed the boat. The ideologues were too late and quite simply, in pressing the issue at this stage, they have weakened the argument.

There is a time for action, and that time passed a while ago!

So, while I support the idea, that is what it should remain. A great idea, and one that should indeed have been enacted nearly 6 months’ ago. But it is too late now.


Mr Corbyn suffers from the same nonsense. He does not know when to speak and when to shut up. Of course, he should have been more vigorous in leading his party against Brexit. He was not. And as a follow-on, of course, he should not have whipped the same MPs who followed his pathetic lead in arguing to Remain into now supporting for the Brexit bill. It is not that his support of the bill or his lack of support would have seriously damaged its passing through the chamber, anyway, but his job is to challenge the government to present the best possible case, to make our legislation more robust. Instead, he thinks he imagines he is still on some sort of activist campaign. Mr Corbyn seems to have given up his effective role in the commons- if he cannot govern, maybe he thinks, and even he must recognise that he will never be Prime Minister, then he might have concluded that it is not really worth the effort at all. He is wrong and he is arrogant: he thinks there is something noble about the idea of contra mundum, but this King Canute approach to politics is simply stupid. Politics is about getting things done- governing the Polis, the city. It is entirely practical. It is not the slogans of the banners of protest that matter- it is the quality of the debate that Corbyn leads that dictates the way policies are defined- and he has long-since abandoned that responsibility. A shame because it is actually the one job he might have done well. As a result, other peoples and groups, whether they be the Ken Clarke’s, (Wonderland!) the Judges or the Lords have taken on the job Corbyn demonstrates he is incapable of doing- the debate on Brexit has shifted, therefore, to an unsightly squabble with the House of Lords. It is unnecessary. Good debate is about raising the issues that matter before they hit us. Today, when we should be controlling the Brexit issue, instead, because of Corbyn’s arrogance, we are increasingly reacting to events as they hit us. If the debate does not take place in the proper forum, it moves elsewhere. Paul Drechsler, the President of the CBI who should have been on board the Brexit bus, was left to observe recently that he feared the PM would open “a Pandora’s Box of economic consequences.” There is another vote coming that many Lords think is more important than the issue of the EU Citizens here (and note the numbers 3 million to 900,000: in terms of parity, it simply does not add up, but there we are! This is about principle not some sort of straight-forward tit-for-tat) — that parliament should be given the chance to veto whatever is agreed by the negotiating teams, so once again all a bit late, and why would anyone want to enter negotiations with the fear that everything will be rejected anyway- not by one of the 27 countries in the EU but by our own parliament! It is madness. But once again it confirms that because Corbyn has failed to do his duty, others, including two of our recent Prime ministers feel they must take over and do it. They are all playing catch-up, they are washing our dirty-linen in public and it is all too undignified. The man responsible for this mess is Mr Corbyn- he is not only messing up the Labour party- he is seriously damaging our Government and our reputation at a time when we need to pull together.

The Observer piece on Farage

nigel's plans

Rachel Cooke can barely restrain her contempt for Mr Farage as she pens this rather fascinating article in the magazine section of the Observer today. I am sure it was set up by the media boffins in the Dorset HQ of UKIP with the thought that Nigel is the party’s greatest asset, but he is a bit like Marmite. I have never really liked Marmite. And I get the impression from this article that he is actually a bit out of his depth. He is running a National election with a sticking plaster and a rubber-band. Whatever your views about his policies, hats off to him for his spunk.

Given my own recent brush with the powers of UKIP, I thought it would be interesting to analyse the main points in the piece.

Firstly there is a photo which is captioned, “Whatever my faults, I have some principles.” Certainly not any ones I would admire, Mr F! Not anymore. My eyes have been thoroughly opened (and incidentally, I am still waiting for a response to my letter!)

But what is interesting about the article is that, given Rachel’s evident dislike of the man’s policies, he comes across as someone we would all enjoy meeting, actually someone we might actually like. He describes himself as a “sentimentalist” and as a man who wants to watch lots of theatre when he retires – I certainly hope he has booked himself into plenty of shows after May 7th, then- She does her level best to do him down “looking at his weary face, clammy and puce”, but for all her efforts, what I felt by the time I finished was a wave of sympathy for a man against the odds. And I liked his observation that politics is full of “corruption and laziness.” Having had a brush with it, I concur.

I remembered  the awful pictures taken of him getting out of the plane wreck, as I was reading Rachel’s article and urge you to check above his brilliant summary of what happened and the way it has affected him. Then, of course, there was the terrible melee last week when his family was attacked by the “hope not hate” people. Also, I realise I must know some of his contemporaries at Dulwich. There are moments, certainly for me, when the Farage image moves from marmite to something rather more all-embracing, and there is undoubted warmth. He has the theatricality and actually the charisma and “common touch” to appeal to a much wider audience, but something stops him doing that.

There was a bit where Rachel pressed him about his family, and I felt his discomfort. (“his absolute refusal to wheel out his family. .. I won’t even let you through the front gate.”) But then, he tells us that his wife would pass the Australian migrant points scheme, and that made me cringe.

Some of the points he makes are blatantly wrong of course – he claims that Blair is responsible for the influx of “hard-working Polish builders”. It was not Blair, but John Major who signed the Maastricht treaty and Blair was simply following the inevitable progress of the Brussels juggernaut. The treaty guaranteed European Citizenship over and above National citizenship. This allowed for freedom of movement within the community, the right to vote and stand for elections in the country of residence and the right of petition to the EU parliament and of complaint to an ombudsman. It also provided for monetary union. A number of subsequent treaties (including Nice, Lisbon and Amsterdam) may have had some Blair input but they were essentially tinkering with what was set up in 1992.


Mrs Thatcher rejected Maastricht saying that she “could never have signed that bill”. And the rebellion against Maastricht formed the centrepiece in the Government of Mr Major, with famously the approval of the Maastricht agreement inching through the Commons with a majority of only 18 votes.

But despite the title on the front page, Rachel does not really draw any conclusion about “what drives Farage”, though I certainly have my suspicions.