Thursday 26 September 2019

Bah, humbug!

The current session of the British Parliament, a corpse which the supreme court has now resurrected, has been longer than any other in its history, which begins in 1707, and longer than any session of any English Parliament except the Long Parliament.  

The Long Parliament could not be prorogued because it made war against the monarch, whose prerogative prorogation is, or was until the day before yesterday. 

Parliament eventually killed him.

There is a lot of talk of violence now, though for the time being it is humbug.

In the last very painful months of Theresa May's premiership, Parliament had almost nothing to do.  Every so often some local bill of utter inconsequence would be debated to break the tedium.

Parliament has even less to do now. It has nothing to do in fact, but it will sit from now until no-one knows when.

The Speaker is now in control of the Order Paper and presumably there will be a succession of emergency questions. Poor Boris Johnson was forced to fly back to England, after addressing the UN wittily on AI, and stand in the House answering questions last night for hours, from every MP who wanted to ask one. 

One cannot imagine Churchill or Macmillan in his shoes, but when they prorogued Parliament it stayed prorogued.

One thing is certain. The story in the Sunday Times about Boris improperly helping an attractive blonde friend when he was Mayor of London, which had made remarkably little impact, will be discussed a lot. It is utterly trivial by French standards, but certainly not by British ones.

Weeks of this will fray tempers and they are very frayed already.

It reminds me of the long hot summer of 1914: suffragette outrages (of which Theresa May approves), long strikes and what would have culminated in civil war in Ireland, with Tory leaders committing treason and siding with the Unionist rebels against the Liberal government.

Instead, Princip killed the Archduke Francis Ferdinand.

What is most striking today is first the anger towards Boris Johnson directed by his opponents inside and outside his party, especially in the left of centre papers, Politico, Sky News and the BBC. 

And second the way in which accusations of encouraging violence are frequently a tactic used against the right.

The Tony Blair Institute for Global Change has already suggested that it should be illegal to claim that white people are being replaced by non-whites. They did so because this is what the suspect in the Christchurch massacres believes.

The third striking thing is how often the tactic of invoking a victim group is used, in last night’s case women. This is an incessant tactic of the left, which the right now copies too.

Boris is always an enjoyable speaker, unlike his predecessor, but PMQs became boring in the end and I stopped watching. But not before Boris Johnson livened it up and aroused genuine, not synthetic, fury when he dismissed Mrs. Paula Sheriff’s fear of violence as “humbug”.   

She began her question by saying

I absolutely do not want to close down robust debate 

and then went on to argue that it should be closed down and words like 'surrender' should not be used.


Her desire not to encourage violence and hatred sounded heartfelt but the word humbug came unbidden into my mind too, before the Prime Minister used it. 

If you disagree that it's humbug please click here and you will see that it is.

Parliament is exactly the place for robust debate. Another sort of politics, consensual, more feminine, in which MPs are bureaucrats, is what they have in Europe. It goes with powerful judges using constitutional law to rule against governments.

Mr Johnson’s attacks on parliament and use of the phrase “surrender act” fifteen times was intended to cause an uproar. 

He was trolling, if trolling means saying something you believe in a way calculated to cause maximum offence.  This is something he has in common with President Trump.

The intention is that the public will see Boris as the only man who can deliver Brexit and side with him against Parliament and judges, always two of the least popular institutions in the land.  

But will they? So far Dominic Cummings' plans have not worked out as he expected, though getting rid of hardcore Remain MPs may yet do so.

poll in the Daily Mail finds most voters think Johnson should apologise to the Queen and more than half of Tory voters think Mr Johnson should quit. The same poll, however, shows him far more popular than Jeremy Corbyn and his party set to win a clear majority at the election.

The PM will try to pass a motion today allowing a three-day recess for the Tory conference next week, but if this is refused he may prorogue Parliament again. I hope he does.

My wish for Parliament to be prorogued till 1 November would have caused the Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox, to have resigned, so he told us yesterday. (Anyway, the Northern Ireland Executive Formation Act 2019 made it impossible.)

Geoffrey Cox gave a wonderful speech, unrepentant about the purported prorogation, very combative, highly intelligent. 

Best of all he looks and sounds like a Tory. 

A future Prime Minister, I hope.

I am very sorry indeed to say that Boris is not a very truthful man, but I think he will keep his word and not ask for an extension to Britain's membership of the EU.

That means he will resign in favour of Jeremy Corbyn. 

It is the strategy of A.J. Balfour in 1905, which went disastrously wrong for Balfour, whose party was swept away in the  biggest landslide of the 20th century.

It could end disastrously for Boris too. 

Or it might work.

The stakes could not be higher.

(This article was published in Conservative Woman.)


  1. I am hoping Boris has something up his sleeve, so that he can somehow dodge resignation. Nothing fails like failure. The sadder possibility is that he will cave in and come back from Brussels trying to sell a deal almost identical to Theresa May's.

    1. Well he did bring back a much better deal than hers and he did not keep his word about asking for a delay. He still think we shall leave on the 31st of this month though.

    2. Overheard:

  2. Both sides accuse each other of threatening violence. Only someone on one side got shot, though.

  3. It rather depends how wide you want to cast the net. For instance, the IRA murdered various members of parliament and peers over the years, and Corbyn has defended them as freedom fighters. But no such violence changes the actual political questions, unless a government caves in to it.

    1. True, but that wasn't over Brexit.

    2. I was thinking of what happened at Charlottesville and how it has been used politically - as these things inevitably and always are. The murder of Mrs Cox may well have cost Leave many votes. No one did any polling as far as I know.

      The point is that Remain wants to slime Leave by association with the murder of Mrs Cox and with death threats. Death threats in the age of Twitter are easier to make than formerly.

      When it comes to killing innocent people, it must be mentioned that Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell are the two politicians who love to consort with IRA Sinn Fein. You cannot imagine any Leave politician inviting Mrs Cox's killer to tea in the House of Commons, were he released.

    3. John McDonnell has always refused to say sorry over his alleged call for Conservative politician Esther McVey to be lynched. He says he was quoting other people without approving.

      He is however a great advocate of what he calls Direct Action including against MPs.

      He allegedly called for the "ballot, the bullet and the bomb" to unite Ireland at a public meeting of 100 people including members of Sinn Fein IRA, at a pub in New Cross, South London in 1986 - before the peace process. The Times is my source.

      The newspaper said he joked that Labour councillors who did not attend the meeting should have their kneecaps shot off, a common IRA punishment.

  4. When people are murdered it focuses attention. Of course murder is going to be reacted to and used politically, and next time someone on your side is murdered I am sure you will use the fact to declare how evil and deprived your opponents are. Who wouldn't? Murder is a lot more serious than rhetoric bandied about in 1986, which is now a long time ago.

    1. Fair enough but what Mr McDonnell said is a lot worse than using words like 'surrender' or even 'traitor'. A lot of people in the UK were murdered for political reasons in 1986 and he and Mr Corbyn were friends with leading figures in IRA Sinn Fein, the organisation responsible. IRA Sinn Fein murdered several MPs and almost murdered Mrs Thatcher.

  5. Well, Corbyn hangs around with and supports scummy people. That's a pretty low bar.

    I know you don't like the Economist but this Boris picture is priceless.

    1. My point is that Corbyn and the party he leads are humbugs.

      I don't like the Economist but agree that this story is very important and could be career wrecking. Reginald Maudling was guilty of far worse things and was deputy Tory leader but no Prime Minister has been accused of corruption since Lloyd George and before him you have to go back to before 1832, I think.

  6. This is revolt against the politics of ideas, so the right position is to disengage not debate. Europe was an idea too.

  7. How will Brexit affect your working career in Romania?