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.

to the Queen

http://www.breitbart.com/london/2015/06/25/exclusive-buckingham-palace-backs-queen-on-europe-speech/

queen1There is a great moment in the play “A Man for All Seasons” by Robert Bolt when Thomas More is finally brought to trial for treason and faces Sir Richard Rich (played in the film by John Hurt), the man who has perjured himself and More asks, “Is it probable that after so long a silence on this the very point so urgently sought of me, I should open my mind to such a man as that?” As Richard prepares to leave the chamber, More looks at his new chain of office- “the red dragon?.. Why Richard it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world, but for Wales?”

This exchange is very much in my mind as I read about the alleged indiscretion about EU by Her Majesty the Queen. Quite apart from the fact that private conversations are by custom never made public, the question lingers- why would a monarch who has spent 63 years carefully avoiding political controversy open her heart to the people at lunch that day on 8th April 2011? I simply find it unbelievable. The Queen is above party politics and this story should not have been splashed over the front page of The Sun. But as it was, it is worth looking in a bit more detail to see that is actually alleged to have been said-

In 2011, the Queen is supposed to have told Nick Clegg that she believed the EU was going in the “wrong direction”. She was apparently very forceful in the presentation of her views. This was when the Euro was in full-blown crisis, with a deeply dodgy Italian Prime Minister clinging on to office despite a gathering sex scandal, and just before the first IMF bailout to Greece. The lunch took place on 8th April so a quick trawl through the internet shows that on 7th, Portugal joined Greece in requesting financial help. So, (a) Her Majesty’s alleged views well-precede any serious discussion on a Brexit, and are long before the PM called a Referendum and (b) are little more than a statement of fact. I cannot imagine anyone with sanity believes that EU has been infallible or foolpoof and indeed, most people would agree with the Queen, even today, whether they advocate an “in” or “out” option in the Referendum. If she said anything at all, then some serious “spin” has been added to the telling.

However, both Lord Mcnally and Nick Clegg deny that any such views were expressed at all at the Lunch. Nick Clegg said on TV this morning, ‘It is not true. I have certainly, absolutely no recollection of a conversation like that, which I suspect I would have remembered if it had taken place. I just think it’s wrong that people who want to take us out of the European Union to now try and drag the Queen for their own purposes into this European referendum debate.’

However, there can be no doubt at all that the EU has followed “the wrong direction” and requires (radical) reform, so that simple statement, whether made by the Queen or not, neither supports a BREXIT nor a “stay in” vote. It is simply common sense. I hope enough noise is now made about the referendum that, whatever the result, the EU tidies up its act significantly. There should never have been reason to campaign for the fishermen in Cornwall, but their livelihood is in danger as indeed is the whole British Fishing industry. The way Europe has treated Greece is deplorable and its handling of the Syrian refugee crisis has been tardy, sanctimonious and foolhardy. There are times when urgent action is demanded and instead, the EU has observed a number of serious crises, from the banking crisis to the humanitarian crisis that is Syria and, frankly, fiddled. “The wrong direction?” Most certainly!

But to draw from this comment in 2011 the conclusion that the Queen favours BREXIT in 2016 is absurd and cheap. A number of people today are being exposed as the possible source of this Palace leak- and how petty, weak and insignificant they appear – dragging the Monarch into a debate she never entered and scoring a cheap home-goal.

Among those who deserve a smack is the otherwise admirable Rees Mogg: He was reported in the original Sun report as saying “I’d be delighted if this was true and Her Majesty is a Brexiter.” He later tweeted “The Queen will be mortified to have been manipulated thus. It does Brexit enormous discredit.”So, let’s hope Mr Rees Mogg was also been mis-quoted by the people in the Sun. It wouldn’t be the first time.

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Apparently, beyond Mr Clegg and another Liberal, Lord McNally (both champions of the “In” campaign anyway), there are two likely candidates for leaking the alleged comments- they are, firstly as forerunner and chief suspect, Michael Gove, the Justice Secretary and a prominent “outer” who says he had “no idea” where the claims came from and whose department underlined his innocence  this morning with the statement that, ‘We don’t comment on private conversations with the Queen.’ Secondly, the Welsh Secretary, Cheryl Gillian, who, so far, has issued no denials – what should we conclude?

“Why Cheryl, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world, but for Wales?”

 

PS: here is a link to a Breitbart article. This organisation is very pro-UKIP so I think more reliable than most to stress the Queen’s pro-EU thoughts. It claims her speech was written for her, so does not express her views… but I think it restores balance and frankly is in tune with the Queen’s approach to what matters- unity and kindness. Whatever our views on the referendum, we must now look beyond that to ensure that unity in our country is fully restored as soon as any decision is made.

http://www.breitbart.com/london/2015/06/25/exclusive-buckingham-palace-backs-queen-on-europe-speech/

“Since 1945 the United Kingdom has determined to number among Germany’s very strongest friends in Europe. In the intervening decades, Britain and Germany have achieved so much by working together. I have every confidence that we will continue to do so in the years ahead.

“Our work together includes every part of life, from politics to commerce, from industry to every aspect of the arts, in particular, music, museums and education.

“In our lives we have seen the worst but also the best of our continent. We have witnessed how quickly things can change for the better. But we know that we must work hard to maintain the benefits of the post-war world. We know that division in Europe is dangerous and that we must guard against it in the West as well as in the East of our continent. That remains a common endeavour.”

“Since 1945 the United Kingdom has determined to number among Germany’s very strongest friends in Europe. In the intervening decades, Britain and Germany have achieved so much by working together. I have every confidence that we will continue to do so in the years ahead.

“Our work together includes every part of life, from politics to commerce, from industry to every aspect of the arts, in particular, music, museums and education.

“In our lives we have seen the worst but also the best of our continent. We have witnessed how quickly things can change for the better. But we know that we must work hard to maintain the benefits of the post-war world. We know that division in Europe is dangerous and that we must guard against it in the West as well as in the East of our continent. That remains a common endeavour.”