Thursday, 7 October 2021

Ian Duncan Smith, the forgotten father of Brexit

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I am reading All In It Together, Alwyn Turner's history of Great Britain from the momentous 1997 election and Tony Blair to the momentous 2015 election, the eve of Brexit. It came out in June. 

It makes me even more grateful than ever that I came to live in Romania in 1998.

History is little more than the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind, according to Gibbon. That was certainly a good description of the history of Great Britain under New Labour from 1997 to 2010. 

I didn't like Margaret Thatcher or Thatcherism but it was not true of the preceding years of Conservative rule from 1979.

In the end it became clear that she had restored England's self-confidence, as Ronald Reagan (someone else whose qualities I couldn't see) did America's. This was the test. 

The UK was a cohesive, unitary state. Our wars were just ones. Our borders were by 21st century standards fairly secure. The country received fifty thousand 'secondary immigrants' (spouses from the Sub-Continent) a year and numerous asylum seekers.

It was interesting to learn from All In It Together that Brexit might well not have happened had Ken Clark been elected Conservative leader in 2001, rather than the completely ineffectual Ian Duncan Smith. 

I presumably knew it at the time but had not retained it. This is the cleverness of the book. 

Mrs Thatcher was the first politician to proposed a referendum on the euro and Tony Blair had promised he would not join the single currency without one

Labour (it was Gordon Brown's decision) might have risked holding one had the Euro-enthusiast Ken been leader of the main opposition party, because it would have split the Conservatives in two. The third party, the Liberal Democrats, were the most enthusiastic about the euro of any party. 

Instead, with Maastricht Treaty rebel IDS leading the Tories, they would have fought a referendum on the euro hard. It would have isolated the Europhiles in the Tory party and the euro referendum would probably (almost certainly) have been lost. 

But had the UK adopted the Euro as Tony Blair wanted, Brexit would have been close to impossible.

The reason why IDS won the leadership was because Tory members had been given the right to vote on the leadership in 1998, following a similar decision by Labour in 1993. 

This is also the reason why Boris Johnson became leader. Most Tory MPs did not want either man.

William Hague who changed the party rules is therefore another father of Brexit, strongly though he opposed Brexit.

David Cameron was not well known, had not been in the House long and was too inexperienced to be leader. Had only MPs voted it is unlikely that he would have won, though certain that the lazy, arrogant David Davis would have lost. MPs know one another.

Theresa May was very much worse even than Ian Duncan Smith, so the Tory electoral system has not worked well. 

The previous one, invented by Humphrey Barclay who then became Labour and by the time I met him a Social Democrat, had done better. It produced Edward Heath and Margaret Thatcher, John Major and William Hague.

Michael Howard, who was the only excellent leader after William Hague, was chosen without a vote.

Perhaps best of all was the old system whereby leaders emerged and were summoned to Buckingham Palace to kiss hands.

Meanwhile, Labour's 1993 decision to give party members a vote on the leadership led to Ed Miliband and Jeremy Corbyn being elected leader.

I was pleased to learn that one of Mr. Blair's speeches included the line 'I am proud of the British empire' and sorry that it was excised after strong protests from Robin Cook.

However, Gordon Brown did say ‘The days of Britain having to apologise for its colonial history are over’ in a speech in Tanzania in 2005. Good for him.

In fact, the British did an immeasurable amount of good in Africa.

Africa owes much more to Europeans than vice versa. 

This is obvious, except it no longer is obvious.

Freedom and especially freedom of speech became very much more limited in the UK after 1997. 

In 2001 broadcaster Anne Robinson joked about the Welsh on BBC television, 'I've never really taken to the Welsh. What are they for?’ 

She and Greg Dyke, Director-General of the BBC, were questioned by police in connection with the incident.

I kid you not.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Tony Blair had earlier got into trouble for racism towards the Welsh. An account of the 1999 Welsh Assembly elections, serialised in The Mail on Sunday, revealed that he had railed against ‘the f***ing Welsh’. 

North Wales Police immediately launched an investigation. ‘It is not trivial,’ said the chief constable. 

Alwyn Turner disagrees. ‘It was, though. It was really very trivial indeed. It was a man shouting at the telly in the privacy of his own home.’

Repeating aloud Christian, Jewish, Muslim or Buddhist teaching on sexual morality was, and remains, borderline illegal.

"…there were still some who believed homosexual practices sinful and it was they who attracted the attention of the police. Both the Catholic writer Lynette Burrows in December 2005 and Sir Iqbal Sacranie of the Muslim Council of Britain the following month were investigated the following month for religiously orthodox comments made on BBC radio." 

The BBC 'hurriedly distanced itself' from the words complained of: 

"in a live radio show it sometimes happens that challenging and unpleasant opinions are expressed."

Police did not bring charges, but said they were obliged to speak to people after a homophobic incident was reported. 

“'It is all about reassuring the community,' explained a spokesperson. Not everyone was reassured by this new role of the police as guardians of public manners, however.”

6 comments:

  1. The party had a thousand miles to go to recover the confidence destroyed by John Major. I have a lot more time than you do for Duncan Smith, he would have made a better PM than any of the others in the running. But it seems unlikely that any Conservative leader could have won in 2005, so it may be academic.

    On the election of Theresa May, it’s fair to say the system was responsible, as she was able to fix the result simply by bludgeoning Andrea Leadsom into dropping out. But I would blame Leadsom for lacking the backbone needed and also Gove for triggering that fiasco.

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  2. The party had a thousand miles to go to recover the confidence destroyed by John Major. I have a lot more time than you do for Duncan Smith, he would have made a better PM than any of the others in the running. But it seems unlikely that any Conservative leader could have won in 2005, so it may be academic.

    On the election of Theresa May, it’s fair to say the system was responsible, as she was able to fix the result simply by bludgeoning Andrea Leadsom into dropping out. But I would blame Leadsom for lacking the backbone needed and also Gove for triggering that fiasco.

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  3. YOU HIT THE FULL BOX OF NAILS SQUATELY ON THE HEAD,DEAR MAN.
    I TOO HAVE FREQUENTLY WONDERED JUST WHAT THE WELSH EXCIST FOR,UNLESS IT BE TO TO KEEP THE ENGLISH IN THEIR PLACE ( OCCASIONALLY CHASTISING Glendower made a very good job it that)). As to the silly polis could they have been labouring under the impression (quite mistakenn)of course) that the fecking Taff's have abandoned procreation?

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  4. I am NOT unknown I am CHARLESFITZGERALD@HOTMAIL.CO.UK

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  5. I liked both Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan - apart from their, to me, agreeable personalities (different though they were), I also shared (and share) their beliefs. I would refer you to 2nd volume of Professor Greenleaf's "The British Political Tradition" (specifically "The Libertarian Strand" section), but I found today that this work is no longer in print - which tells me all I need to know about modern Britain.

    The decline of Freedom of Speech in the United Kingdom is obvious - and it goes hand-in-hand with the decline of liberty in general in the Western World. Other than grieve I am not sure what we can do. However, the quiet expression of grief is important. The West had something precious, liberty, and the West has this precious thing no longer - there should be grief at the dying of the light.

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  6. It's bad enough that we in the Anglosphere gave up our freedoms in exchange for democracy. But we don't even have democracy. Who was the last British PM whose party won a majority of the vote? Wasn't it Stanley Baldwin? In 1935?

    Most Australians did not want Scott Morrison as prime minister. 41% of the voters wanted him. Most Britons did not want Boris Johnson as prime minister. About 43% voted for him.

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