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.

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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.

Mr Versi’s revisions

I have written before about the work of Miqdaad Versi and I note that his actions are now reported to be more targeted and disciplined. He now also writes for the Guardian.

It is not that I want people to search for errors, but I would like journalists to be held to a standard of decency that sets the tone for any future or current debate. I went back and reread what I wrote earlier- mostly it was a groan about the gathering campaign of Mr Trump who tomorrow is inaugurated as 45th President of the US. Rather like Brexit, this is something we must now accept as reality. We cannot wring our hands and protest that we did not vote for this, want it, or indeed that we do not recognise the outcome. It is our job to make the best of a given result. That is the reality of politics.

More than that, the Trump Presidency has an impact well-beyond the borders of the US and he has a direct effect on many people therefore who were never given an opportunity to vote for him in the first place. The much-hyped concept of 51% voting for such and such is irrelevant actually. The only relevant fact is the reality we face, and we move forward in the knowledge that that is the reality we must address.

In contrast to the worried views of the “Spiked on line” people, and particularly the rather petulant Tom Slater (who thinks Versi is trying to “ring-fence Islam from criticism”), I think it is the quiet and careful actions of people like Mr Versi that will tone down the more extreme rhetoric that was used by Trump and his followers during the US election campaign. Let’s hope Trump’s more extreme remarks were the product of ignorance. Ignorance, as Plato says, can always lead to knowledge and knowledge is “the Good”.

To his credit, Mr Trump has mellowed of late and is clearly seeking and taking advice. Like Mr Reagan, Trump shows all the signs of being a good delegator, something we over here need to learn. Maybe it is time for a big businessman to take on the establishment. I loved the Peter Brooke’s cartoon a few days ago in the Times that celebrated Trump while also recording the end of the Barnum and Bailey/Ringling brothers’ circus. In fact, I increasingly love Peter Brookes! His observation demands scrutiny and his drawing alone merits some study. He has been on a bit of a roll recently while Riddell, in the Observer, whose work I think is a natural successor to Tenniel, has been a bit “same-y”.

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Mrs May and Sharia

I was quite irritated this evening to find an old hostile report by Nick Gutteridge in the Express re-peddled on the web about Mrs May’s general comments regarding Sharia law. Clearly, the Express was trying to stir up some sort of Islamaphobia and it is wrong.

It describes Sharia law as “drawn from the Koran and various fatwas”, and suggests about 100 such lawcourts are active in the UK today. The use of the word “fatwa”is designed to provoke fear, because for the readers of the Express, the word “fatwa” means only one thing. It is what happened to the man who wrote “the Satanic Verses” Salman Rushdie. And, I wonder how many readers of the Express have ever bothered to read “the Satanic Verses”?

The Express has a long history, founded by Pearson and passed to Beaverbrook during the 1st World war-  in the past was the paper of choice for many. Today, it lurks in the gutter with the Star and the Sun and, of course, is known to have supported the baser elements of UKIP. But when it was first launched in 1900, it was revolutionary in cutting advertising from its front pages. It was the news that was wanted and that’s what the Express provided. Bravo!

Lord Beaverbrook admittedly thought of it as little more than a broadsheet for promoting propaganda, often for the Government- so it enthusiastically embraced Appeasement in the run up to 1939.

Still, I am also very fond of Rupert Bear and Giles both of which were launched by the paper and Andrew Marr was a former columnist.

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By the 1960s, it had taken on a slightly aggressive stance and the Duke of Edinburgh was apparently quoted calling it “a bloody awful newspaper. It is full of lies, scandal and imagination. It is a vicious paper”. It has done the same thing more recently, launching a crusade against East Europeans- “Britain is full and fed up. Today join your Daily Express Crusade to stop new flood of Romanian and Bulgarian migrants”. Horrible!

Anyway, this is how the Express quoted Theresa May,

“Many British people of different faiths follow religious codes and practices, and benefit a great deal from the guidance they offer.

“A number of women have reportedly been victims of what appear to be discriminatory decisions taken by Sharia councils, and that is a significant concern.

“There is only one rule of law in our country, which provides rights and security for every citizen.

“Professor Siddiqui, supported by a panel with a strong balance of academic, religious and legal expertise, will help us better understand whether and the extent to which Sharia law is being misused or exploited and make recommendations to the Government on how to address this.”

Now to Sharia law:

Feirstly, Sharia is derived from the Koran and the Hadiths. Not from Fatwas as the Express claims. There are a variety of schools of interpretation – Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i, Jarafi and Hanbali. It stretches from specific rules instituted by the Prophet to Urf, or customs which may well be in conflict with primary texts and open to debate. Urf is what we would regard as “common law”.

We already have a limited use of Sharia, as we have a limited use of catholic canon law in the UK, particularly with reference to divorce or annulment, but the religious ruling does not and cannot replace the civil act.

Theresa May is talking about the positive influence of Religion on the lives of many people in the UK and across the world. The express is whipping up Islamophobia by referring to the appalling treatment of women in certain societies- certainly not imposed by the Koran, but possibly covered by local customs, Urf. The Express should be  careful in what it says.

I think we should be positive about Sharia, while respecting its limited use within our society. Of course, we cannot allow people to abuse others under the excuse of following some interpretations of Sharia and I doubt most imams would advocate this.

Theresa May is right of course!

Make room for Andrea Leadsom!

The New Prime Minister makes it very clear that she is efficient- she had appointed the key members of her cabinet within an hour of kissing hands in Buckingham palace. One of those appointments, Boris Johnson, has sent shockwaves around the world but I think I have already explained for a Turkish outlet precisely why Boris over-egged the “Leave” omelette and why that was such an important thing to do if he was to deny Farage his place at a future Cabinet table- to me, Boris will always be the man who took one for the team, and he did it with a panache no one could ever rival.

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Boris is not just the thinking-man’s Farage, he is quite simply, “thinking man”. Farage, once thought necessary to anyone’s plan for Brexit, like any unwanted ingredient, like rancid butter, has been consigned to the bin of history.

Mrs May also makes a stab at a smile, but it all looks a bit forced. For that reason, I hope she will find room for Andrea Leadsom on her team. Andrea demonstrated last weekend that she is deeply human and the mistake she may or may not have made in no way disqualifies her for high office. I think she could show the humanity of the Cabinet. We need a few tears and we need someone to gleefully explain how to vote twice, or, indeed, to observe that getting a room to meet a Telegraph interviewer at the local hotel might perhaps be misinterpreted. I do not share many of Mrs Leadsom’s views but I have grown to like what she stands for more and more over the last week.

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The leadership look

the artist's model

Now the Conservative Leadership campaign is to be fought between two women, there seems to be competition to look as much like Mrs Thatcher as possible. Last night, Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom both gave interviews and I did a quick drawing of each. This is the result, but look how much they resemble the Lady herself! I think Mrs May has the edge.

thatcher

Here is a scene from my film, “How to be Boss” where I am quoting Mrs T’s famous dictum made to Women’s Own in 1988: “There is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look after themselves first. It is our duty to look after ourselves and then, also, to look after our neighbours.”

Here are the individual pictures-

I have drawn Theresa May before here- 

government ministers

and Andrea Leadsom here

and here

gay marriage

 

I scribbled this for a Turkish paper:

Just a note about Boris:

Johnson, the charismatic former mayor of London, dropped out of the Conservative leadership election after his fellow “Leave” campaigner, Michael Gove, said he was not fit for office. In fact, I understand that Boris was stabbed in the back by his own manager, the MP for Stamford, Nick Boles, another Oxford man. I had been in touch with Nick Boles, indeed, a few weeks ago about an educational project, and I got the impression then that he had not been actively involved in the Referendum campaign. I was right. He was probably busy plotting political assassination. The day before he resigned, Boris had been besieged by telephone calls and texts and Nick apparently suggested he took away the mobile phone which Boris, trusting animal as he is, gave to him. In his possession, Boles had the power to send a number of deeply foolish messages in Boris’s name, one indeed to Angela Leadsom which Boris knew nothing about. This is what led to his decision to withdraw. The lesson is very simple: never lend anyone your mobile phone!

For weeks, Gove and Johnson looked like great friends, but it is now clear that although Michael Gove was underhand, is openly disliked and arguably dishonest,  in fact, the groundwork for Gove’s brutality was actually laid by Boles who was a much closer friend. It is still not clear whether Boles’ telephone antics were stupidity or malice but they provided enough ammunition for Gove. The chaotic mess that surrounds Boris’s departure, however, does not lessen his achievement which has been spectacular. So, on Friday night, Boris made his own oblique reference to the Boles/Gove assassination when he spoke with some detachment about his success as Mayor in London bringing down crime levels- though he added, he had not quite dealt with “knife crime” in Westminster. Only a man as schooled as Boris in classical allusions could have got away with such a reference. Not only was Boris stabbed in the back, but it was done by one of his closest university friends.

nick Boles pix

in contrast to Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli’s twitter comments that Brexit would fragment the EU and that “Britain was the first to abandon ship,” Brexit may well heal Europe and at the same time, help Turkey’s EU bid. After dragging its feet for months, I expect the EU to finally pay up the cash promised on 18th March and also grant the visa-free access promised in return for discouraging irregular migration across the Aegean sea. Already, a week after BREXIT, the EU has opened a new chapter in Turkey’s accession talks, entitled “financial and Budgetary provisions”. The EU will be looking to replace Britain with another weighty nation and Turkey is a prime candidate. The “Christianity” claim is rubbished by the accession of Bosnia and the planned accession of Albania so the key objections to Turkish accession are fading.

nurettin Canikli

We now face an exciting time as two women contend for the Premiership, and  I hope as Andrea Leadsom adjusts to being in the media spotlight, there will be a real discussion about the way forward. I am personally very proud that we, as a Nation have put forward two women, without any attempt at an “all woman shortlist” or positive discrimination. Andrea and Theresa are there on merit.

In the meantime, as Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci has urged, we should be cementing our common interests as two countries on the edge of Europe and build up our mutual investments and trade.