+I have written to the Speaker of the House of Commons. Self explanatory.
Dear Sir Lindsay,
I hope you will consider putting the following proposal through the appropriate channels.
It is simply that after the next election, the person who takes on the role and functions of the most senior member should be a woman. This proposal is made blind to personalities or parties. The last figures shown on the HoC website show that still only 34% of MPs are women, so it is likely that after the next election the most senior MP will continue to be male. I recognise that traditionalists will object to a move to make the Mother of the House leapfrog the Father of the House, but such a step would help, albeit perhaps in a small, symbolic way to demonstrate that genuine reform is possible to make the ‘Mother of Parliaments’ more representative. It should be pointed out to traditionalists that many traditions have changed over the years. Members no longer have to wear top hats when seeking to make a point of order. You yourself no longer need to wear a wig. MPs can use electronic media whilst in the Chamber. And to my regret, an insistence on sartorial standards generally seems to be in abeyance.
The new Father or Mother of the House plays some key roles, not least presiding over the election of the Speaker. That clearly is not an immediate concern, but isn’t it time the Commons appeared a bit less patriarchal?
I look forward to your response,
+Dale Vince, the founder and now millionaire owner of green energy company Ecotricity has been castigated by the Daily Mail for giving money to the climate change protestors and disrupters of 'Just Stop Oil.' He also gives a lot of money to the Labour Party, so the Mail is demanding Starmer gives the money back, since it is somehow spuriously related to illegal protest activity. That argument is a bit of a stretch. But Vince was on the radio this morning saying his business is British and pays all its taxes here, unlike, he said, Jacob Rees Mogg who has his tax avoiding off shore business accounts. Mogg wasn’t present to respond, and I’m surprised the Beeb let it pass. Well, maybe it’s true, so that’s that. On the other hand, Mogg’s reputation has been besmirched has it not, so perhaps he’ll speak to his libel lawyers. I wish that were so. Vince has deep enough pockets to see the faux patriot Mogg in court.
As election slogans go, I thought Labour’s pitch in 1989 (I think it was) ‘Meet the Challenge: Make the Change’ was quite catchy. Well, it was something like that, alliterative and positive, albeit accompanied by a grinning Kinnock and a newly blossomed red rose. Not everybody got the drift, obviously. At the time I quite liked the idea of dropping the ‘ge’ from the word Challenge. Today the clever bods in Labour’s HQ will be scratching their heads searching for a new, inspirational and easily remembered slogan, something which perhaps captures our leader’s charismatic vision of a New Britain. (Possibly not New Labour, New Britain, c.1997) The party's recent drift towards negative messaging on social media doesn’t bode well. And sadly, ’For the Many, Not the Few’ has to be disregarded, with its socialist, Corbynistic tone (even if the phrase was lifted from Tony Blair’s words drafted onto all party membership cards after the abolition of Clause 4). So what will be Labour’s pitch next year (the general election will be held in October 2024 unless Sunak expects to lose and delays until the last possible moment)? ‘Let’s Get New Management’ has a ring to it, reminding one of the fate of failing businesses which proudly claim ‘Under New Management’ when what is needed is an entirely new business model. I once worked in pub which proudly stated that it sold ‘fresh cut sandwiches,’ a reassuring statement above a motley collection of curled-up several days’ old staleties (spot the neologism). Unless Labour can convince the electorate that it has more to offer than a few ‘fresh cut Tory policies’ no effort on the slogan front will succeed. It’s substance we need, not PR. Actually, I would run with Meet the Challenge, Make the Change, except I'm not at all sure our leadership knows what the challenge is, still less the change.
+ I've been on holiday. So not much time for blogging. Still, here we are again, ready to confront the issues that matter!
+ According to the Financial Times, (15th May) Andy McDonald, Labour MP for Middlesborough has called out the Tory Teesside Mayor, millionaire Ben Houchen for alleged ‘cronyism’ in his redevelopment plans for the old Redcar steelworks, a site which will feature greatly in the Tory Freeport scam. McDonald’s remarks were made under parliamentary privilege, which is just as well since no doubt if they had been made outside of the House of Commons chamber the millionaire would pursue him for libel. So thank god for parliamentary privilege, it’s serving it’s purpose! It is my honestly held opinion that Houchen is one of those arrogant types who can get away with what he wants, transporting his self-made man business ethic into the public sphere. I think we saw a glimpse of this when, during Covid he decided to have all the parks locked up, lest anyone get any fresh air or have somewhere to exercise (which was permitted at the time). All the while he no doubt self-isolated in his park and mansion (a story covered by the Guardian). Steve Bundred (according to the FT) a ‘former chief executive of the Audit Commission, a public body that examined local government entities before being disbanded in 2015, says the evidence “calls for a full and thorough investigation by the National Audit Office and the public accounts committee, as the situation now appears far remote from the business case originally agreed with the government. It seems that a very valuable public asset has been secretly disposed of, without and real benefit to the taxpayer, while securing lucrative gains for the taxpayers." The FT says the private developers have reaped 45 million from the scheme without investing anything. All very reminiscent of the Yeltsin era. But is it corruption? McDonald spoke in parliament of ‘industrial scale corruption,’ though it could be hard to pin down exactly what is meant by that. Is he suggesting something worse than cronyism, which isn’t against the law – just as it seems the Tories’ awarding billions of pounds worth of Covid PPE contracts wasn’t (so far as we can tell) against the law. Transparency International produced a very clear and precise report on corruption – Corruption Laws, a Non Lawyer’s Guide – which looks at what is legal and what isn’t. It makes it clear that some forms of corruption, particularly cronyism and nepotism in legal terms are OK, although in certain cases they can be officially frowned upon, or will not withstand the court of public opinion – the appointment of Richard Sharp as Chair of the BBC comes to mind.
The role of the nod and the wink in politics I guess will never be eliminated, and the argument is often made that even if so-and-so is an old pal it doesn’t follow that they aren’t the best person for the job. It helps of course if you don’t look anywhere else. In the Teesside case it is alleged that despite the value of the contracts, nothing went out to tender. So much for the free market.
In politics so much depends on trust, and the more you are in the public eye it is ironic that you will have a greater need for people you can trust, and hence less transparency in their appointment. It is also clear that standards of accountability perform differently in the ever present semantics of ‘Let me put this into context.’ Here we can detect the gloss of opacity which is so often relied upon to cover up the inexcusable, which amounts to a different form of corruption. It helps the corrupt to be adept at corrupting the language, a la Big Brother. The prevalence of semantic corruption is perhaps a key contributor to the greater level of cynicism felt by the public, who less and less expect politicians to tell the truth or even stick to what they have said before. Yes, you’ve guessed it: Starmer’s broken pledges and constant shape shifting have definitely made him look quite the unreliable and opportunistic politician he is. And if that’s the way you end up it is surely a hard task to recover – as is often said, it can take an age to build trust but only a moment to destroy it. I guess some of our ruling elite are just so inured in their own hubris they cannot see anyway out, even if they felt the need to, which I am not at all sure is the case.
Thank the gods that’s all over. Yes, I’m referring to the extra long c-word. For those of us who thought the Queen would live for ever it’s all come as a terrible shock. But like a hard to eradicate infection, the ghastly family are still with us, and they’re desperately trying to demonstrate that not much has changed in the last hundred years, except for the now de rigueur ceremonial inclusion of a few representatives of our diverse society, but only up to a point. As somebody pointed out, the presentation of our new monarch on the balcony of Buck House was all white. There are limits! (Surely they could have paid Meghan an appearance fee?) Meanwhile, on this regally ordained bank holiday the news has emerged that a UK trade minister is to officially visit Hong Kong and we are assured that the Chinese authorities will be sternly told to respect human rights, like the right to protest in support of democracy. Presumably the Chinese will be advised how to craft laws which enhance the ability of police to arrest people willy-nilly, as even non-protestors were arrested prior to the long c-word event in London this weekend. The police were using the latest Tory repression laws ’without fear or favour’ according to a representative of the Police Federation on the Today programme this morning. I can imagine the scene: ‘I’m arresting you without fear or favour, just hop into the cage in the back of that van and I’ll bring you a bacon butty.’ (In the full knowledge that said protestor is likely to be a veggie.) I’m sure our new king will go on for about 10 or 15 years all things being equal, but one thing’s for sure: this Coronation (aarrrgghhh!) has demonstrated that things are certainly, most definitely not all equal.
+I’ve spent the weekend in Glasgow at the Tectonics festival, now in its tenth year. This was my forth. It’s about contemporary music, but to many people’s ears I doubt much of it would be classed as music at all. Noise is a description the festival organisers have been happy to use. Some pieces are played by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, guided by conductor Ilan Volkov – a full ensemble of 80 or so players have lots of fun making one hell of a sound. But other pieces can be so somnolent I can barely stay awake. The festival takes place in two halls, The Grand Hall and the adjacent and connected Old Fruitmarket. It is in the latter that the less orchestral contributions occur. I bother you with this information merely to report how pleasing it was to see a 70 year old bloke sat at a table playing with his Ipad and laptop with a rapt audience watching his ever so slightly sliding finger moving across his screens. This is very definitely not like watching a guitar player. But the sound Carl Stone made with his mega-watt sound system was sufficient to impress. I’d never heard of him until now, but he is described as ‘one of the pioneers of live computer music’ and the ‘king of sampling.’ For anybody who’s a bit deaf, Carl’s your man. If you weren’t deaf already . . . Apparently there’s been some important football match here this weekend. What an opportunity to do some sampling.
+Canada’s Chief Pompous Arse is at it again. I refer of course to Conrad Black, the so-called Lord Black of Crossharbour. The convict has once again protested his innocence in an article in the newspaper the National Post, which he founded. He seems to think that a pardon from his chum Trump overturns his criminal record. It doesn’t of course, it merely illustrates the abuse of a presidential power. The reason for his latest protestations, in which it turns out that some (unnamed) Canadians are quislings, is that he has just had a new Canadian passport issued to him. What I didn’t know was that when he was courageously but oh so modestly battling for his ermine (he didn’t want to embarrass the Queen over so trivial a matter) he was in touch with Tony Blair.
‘Blair graciously sent his driver to my home (in London) with an application for British citizenship and told me to put him and the home secretary, Jack Straw, as my British sponsors and sign it and return it to the driver. He welcomed me as a British citizen an hour later.’
Was there no end of embarrassment Blair was not prepared to undergo? Conrad of course eventually got his gong, thanks to William Hague who witnessed his induction along with Henry Kissinger – a moment I am sure Kissinger will consider one of the highlights of his long life. M’Lord Black clearly loves his place on the red leather benches for according to the Parliament website ‘there are no spoken contributions for Lord Black of Crossharbour.’ He’s conveniently on a ‘leave of absence.’ It would be fair to say ‘thank god for that!’ Black’s prodigious efforts to get his convictions overturned I suspect had more to do with the US way of justice, where some wealthy people can pay lawyers to endlessly argue their case. Thankfully it doesn’t always work. Naturally, the question left hanging is if asked what favours would Keir Starmer do for ‘Lord’ Black?
+I have learnt that some or all of Gordon and Sarah Brown’s business affairs operate under the aegis of The Office of Gordon and Sarah Brown Ltd. A Companies House search reveals that their total equity (2022 accounts) shows a balance of £2,716,152. Is this the whole picture I wonder? If so, it’s a poor patch on Tony Blair who is often said to be worth tens of millions. And apparently even Liz Truss now has big earning potential. The lure of lucre I have to declare straightaway has no corrupting influence on our politics whatsoever.