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Saturday 27 July 2019

Liveability, Localism and Law and Order - Boris in Manchester

Over lunch I've just listened to Boris delivering his Manchester speech (25 mts) and if you have the time it's worth a listen. The Leeds - Manchester fast rail link was well signalled and came as little surprise to the audience, but it really wasn't the point of the speech.

This was a speech aimed at Brexit Party voters, at Libertarians such as me, at Labour voters disgusted at their betrayal by the soft southern metropolitan ponces who have taken over their working-class party and at all those with a pride in their county, region, city or towns outside London.

He gave us Localism - greater devolution of powers across the regions (though Cameron said the same at the start and I believed him, too) but not too specific as to what Whitehall and SW1 will let be taken from their grasping talons.

He also gave us Liveability - a word banned from government since Gordon Brown's days. It's a word I'm very familiar with - I delivered one of the old ODPM's Liveability pilots back in the day in London. Under the tagline 'cleaner, safer, greener' we invested in declining local commercial centres with designs for easy maintenance, designs for safety and security, and for enhanced public transport access and use. I've just looked on google street maps at one of the marginal high streets we tackled back then - on the edge, declining and with vacant units when we picked it. Well, readers, I kid you not, they haven't changed our improvements and it's thriving - not a single vacant shop, a blooming pub, a clean and welcoming place through which to walk and shop. They've even left alone London's widest zebra crossing. You see, when I won the battle with the council's transport numpties to install a zebra crossing without barriers rather than the pelican crossing with extensive cattle-pen barriers they fought for, I rubbed it in. Zebra crossings have no width limit. So I instructed the designer to make ours 6m wide, on a raised table. I never thought it would have survived the petty vindictiveness of the local muppets whose transport planning ideas were stuck somewhere back in 1976 and who thought Jan Gehl was a Swedish rock band.

And then he gave us Law and Order. Prisons. Sentencing. Stuff to warm the hearts of blue-blood voters, despite himself being quite socially liberal.

It was all very well crafted and motivational. But you can judge for yourselves.

I'm soon going to have to search for something to be critical about in the Boris administration or the foundational purpose of this blog since 2008 - to hold their feet to the fire, and to do so day after day - will disappear.

Friday 26 July 2019

Anglo- French race to space?

I'm starting to enjoy this Summer even more by the day, and the Ashes are just starting, which means guerillacricket replaces Radio Caroline on my portable bluetooth powered speaker. And now, harking back to the years of ironclads and Gloire, we have the prospect of an Anglo-French race to the stars.

One of the major announcements lost in the noise of Boris' spectacular Commons debut yesterday was the indication that we, the UK, will be launching our own GPS Sat system* - no doubt a cogent move against being locked out of the currently broken down and Chinese-infiltrated Galileo system. It's not yet complete, and their actual satellites are built here. The EU doesn't have the know-how. So I suspect an export ban on satellites if the EU continues to be obdurate, plus the launch of contracts for our own £10bn programme (a much better use of the money than HS2) will soon change things around. Yes, I know everyone thinks it's for road pricing but I don't care.

One of Penny Mordaunt's last acts before her defenestration as defence secretary was to green-light developments in the UK's Space Force. As the paper reports -
An RAF spokesman said: "The UK is already is a world-leader in small satellite technology and we’re excited to be partnering with Virgin Orbit, one of the industry’s leading figures, to boost our space ambitions even further." Ms Mordaunt also said the UK is joining Operation Olympic Defender, a US-led international unit aimed at strengthening deterrence against hostile actors in space and at stopping the spread of debris in orbit. Joint Forces Command, which co-ordinates activity across the armed forces, will also be renamed Strategic Command, the Defence Secretary announced.
Speaking at the Air and Space Power Conference in London, Ms Mordaunt said: "Science fiction is becoming science fact. One day I want to see RAF pilots earning their space wings and flying beyond the stratosphere".
I wonder whether British spacecraft will be equipped with a feature unique to British tanks, an inbuilt tea-making facility? One hopes so. But our ambitions are not unique - M. Macron across the channel has similar hopes for France, which he hopes to achieve with German money.  As Politico EU reports-
The French government will develop laser weapons to fend off attacks in orbit and deploy mini-surveillance satellites by 2023 to protect space-based infrastructure, Defense Minister Florence Parly said today. "Today, our allies and adversaries are militarizing space," Parly said in a speech that confirmed France will set up a space command in Toulouse from September 1. "As time to build resilience gets shorter and shorter, we must act." As Paris moves to counter threats from China, Russia and India, Parly said new legislation would be prepared to consolidate control of France’s space activities directly under the defense ministry.
Ah, it's all becoming so ...... 1859. You will recall French hubris was shattered just a year after they built the first ironclad, when we rendered it utterly redundant with HMS Warrior.

* "We will have .... satellite and earth observation systems that are the envy of the world. We will be the seedbed for the most exciting and dynamic business investments on the planet."

Thursday 25 July 2019

Wow. I don't think anyone was expecting that.

A taste of the way things were going yesterday came early, with news that Dominic Cummings was in the Number Ten team. Then we knew Boris was serious, and would be a PM of very different stamp to the dilettante David Cameron or the dismally incapable May. Every new announcement of a new member of the Dream Team brought rapture to Leavers on social media and meltdown to remainers.

Boris has three jobs. First, to get the UK out of the EU by 31st October. Second, to consolidate a party whose congruence has been dented by EUphile rebels. Finally, to trounce Corbyn and win an autumn general election. The team he has put together has been designed precisely to deliver those three outcomes - and so far all the square pegs have gone into the square holes.

There were a number of media columns yesterday suggesting that Boris should trigger an immediate election. Risible nonsense. It is time for the Treasury to release its grip a little so that measures to sweeten the changes of the coming months can be appreciated by the electorate before they go to the polls; the public would also not forgive an election until Boris is forced into one by a petulant and obstructive parliament. Those forcing an election will be compromising our ability to put all our efforts into an October Brexit, and thus will be acting against the interests of the British people.

As for Brexit, his message is clear. We are planning for a clean Brexit, but are asking Brussels to accept a cut-and-paste deal taking all the best bits from May's mess; citizens' rights, travel, pets, financial passporting and those sorts of things. If the inflexible bigots and zealots won't budge then so be it; a clean Brexit. Any fall out will be the EU's fault - we tried. And we keep our £39bn.

Cleverly as Party chair is a good move. He's a plodder, not a cerebral. House trained and socially skilled, he can schmooze with the best of them and is utterly loyal to whomever is in power. With the lesser posts filled overnight, this morning we have a cabinet of 30 with 14 leavers and 16 who voted remain in the referendum - though who now are fully committed to Boris and to a clean Brexit.

So many good appointments. And so many strengths - a cabinet that can both manage leaving the EU and plan an election win, that can win loyalty from both the parliamentary party and the Conservative Associations. I'd almost forgotten what a capable PM looked like. DUDE.

Now to bring the party funders back and fill the war chest. James, go!    

Wednesday 24 July 2019

Just enjoy their discomfort

Columns will be filled for many months with Boris and Brexit, and we have a way to go and a likely general election to face, but just for today, for one day whilst Boris moves in, let's give ourselves a break.

For three years we've had a remainer government that didn't want to deliver Brexit working hand in glove with a remainer parliament that doesn't want to deliver Brexit. Now, for the first time since 23rd June 2016, we will have a Cabinet and key mandarins and sherpas committed to leaving. This has of course triggered all the fifth-column remainers - and their petulant, juvenile tantrums are a joy to behold.

Florence of Belgravia has flounced out and will continue to be a prat from the back benches. #RoryWanksOn. Hammond, Gaulk and other nobodies have gone before they're sacked. Boulton is so puce with anger I thought his head would explode, the Guardian is in meltdown, social media is as stunned as it was three years ago and despite their #NotMyPM tags they will find that in fact he is. So for a day, chill, laugh and enjoy their discomfort.

Tuesday 23 July 2019

'Noncefinder-General' Tom Watson under fire for credulity

Watson has long been a conspiracy theorist. After the Savile failure, he made the cardinal error of telling fellow MPs that he believed in a kiddy fiddler network amongst the political establishment. It was the sort of weak-minded credulity equivalent to announcing in the chamber that the da Vinci Code was a factual book, or that Prince Philip had killed Diana. The sexual fantasist 'Nick', who has subsequently been convicted, was then easily able to identify Watson as a suitable patsy to whom to spew his sick imaginings - and Watson was crass, credulous and gullible enough to lap it up.

Now MPs, even very stupid ones, have a certain status, and when Watson started repeating 'Nick's' sick fantasies the police could no longer ignore them, and weak, back-covering colleagues in the house such as the then Home Secretary, Theresa May, were also compelled to act. As the Telegraph has it
... the police who were, by now, committed to believing any sex abuse complaint, however outlandish. Basic checks that would have disproved Beech’s lurid claims were not carried out. A homicide inquiry was set up solely on the basis of his unsubstantiated allegations and, against this backdrop, Theresa May as home secretary instigated a public inquiry into historic sex abuse. One senior police officer even called this farrago of obviously fanciful tales “credible and true”. They were neither.
Watson's involvement was pivotal in the unjustifiable persecution of many wholly innocent public figures, their reputations, established over a lifetime of service, traduced. This fat credulous, cretinous owl, now nicknamed 'the Noncefinder-General' after the 17th century woman-hater Matthew Hopkins, made an utter arse of himself.

Watson is so far refusing to apologise for his substantial role in this nonsense, and for the utter waste of public resources. However, Labour members - and potential Labour voters - must now be asking whether Watson, himself now a proven fool, a believer in absurd conspiracy theories, a weak gossip and repeater of tittle-tattle, a credulous dullard, is a suitable person to lead the Party,

Steve Bell satirises Watson's 'Noncefinder General' tag

Monday 22 July 2019

Boris is right - the dreary pessimists must pack their bags

I think today will be the last Monday - at least for some time - that Boris Johnson's column appears in the Telegraph. His final appeal is for an end to the gloomy prognostications of failure, the hangdog jowls, the droopy bitter eyes, the negative vibes. When he moves into Number Ten, we can be sure at least he will not be dragged down by a depressive, negative neighbour - Hammond has already been pictured packing, and will be gone before Boris arrives. His main point is that fifty year ago we put a man on the moon. Solving an issue of a customs border in Ireland is piffle. 

I've lost count of the times on construction schemes when I've been told it can't be done, it's impossible, the cost will be prohibitive. The reason I was picked to deliver so many 'difficult' schemes (and they are still trying to get me to do so - despite my strict instructions to my agent as to my very picky criteria for new work) I believe is that I had a reputation for being 'agile' at a time when the term wasn't even in the vocabulary of the management consultants. Usually all it took was a quiet and sympathetic chat with the boss of the engineering / design consultancy, telling them I understood if the task was too great for them, if they couldn't cope. There was no shame in it. We would arrange their quiet replacement by another practice. Fee-earning firms don't expect to be sacked - they expect their word to be gospel on the feasibility or not of some scheme aspect. Nine times out of ten it did the trick. You see, the task was very rarely impossible - more often the key consultants just didn't want to do it my way.

So I am with Boris on this. I've had a working lifetime of dreary dullards predicting failure and a lifetime's experience of proving them wrong. Boris writes
And I am afraid that there are technological pessimists – some of them apparently in London – who seem genuinely to think that such technical solutions are impossible, that they are a kind of logical contradiction, a mythological species that we will never see in this universe. Are they right? Of course not. There is abundant scope to find the solutions necessary – and they can and will be found, in the context of the Free Trade Agreement that we will negotiate with the EU (and this is common to both candidates in the current leadership contest) after we have left on October 31.

It is absurd that we have even allowed ourselves to be momentarily delayed by these technical issues. If they could use hand-knitted computer code to make a frictionless re-entry to Earth’s atmosphere in 1969, we can solve the problem of frictionless trade at the Northern Irish border. There is no task so simple that government cannot overcomplicate if it doesn’t want to do it. And there are few tasks so complex that humanity cannot solve if we have a real sense of mission to pull them off.
For a final column, that's not bad. 

Sunday 21 July 2019

Lawfare - The tide turns

This year's Reith Lectures by Lord Sumption really were extraordinarily prescient. Go on, listen to them if you haven't already - after all, you paid for them. Just like you've paid already for all the classic TV that the BBC will now charge you £70 a year to watch. Back to Sumption. He decried the intrusion of legal processes into matters that ought to be democratically decided - into political matters. Increasingly, those unhappy with the decision by the British electorate to Leave the EU have used the courts and legal processes to seek to frustrate or sabotage our exit. From Gina Miller to the biased Common Purpose shills at the Electoral Commission who have misconducted themselves in the exercise of their authority, Remain has taken up Lawfare in preference to democracy.

But now it seems the tide is turning. The biased and crooked Electoral Commission have now been slapped down three times by the courts - surely enough to provoke the mass cull of both Commissioners and the top two tiers of management - the latest over their unlawful persecution of young Darren Grimes. Arron Banks, fed up with the lies, barbs and insults of Remain campaigners posing as journalists, is taking Carole Cadwalladr to court to make an example of her.

Boris is also expected to push a robust and committed Attorney General into vigorous legal opposition to attempts to challenge the government in the courts - to maintain, as Lord Sumption has cogently explained, the proper separation of legal from political matters.

In the words of Corporal Jones, they don't like it up 'em.

Now that Leave have started playing the Lawfare game, and winning, the Remain side want to pull stumps -
... press freedom campaigners and charity groups warn the government in an open letter that UK courts are being used to “intimidate and silence” journalists working in the public interest. In a joint letter to key cabinet members, they call for new legislation to stop “vexatious lawsuits”, highlighting one filed last week by Banks against campaigning journalist Carole Cadwalladr.
reports the Guardian.

You couldn't make it up.