The hypocrisy of leading Brexiters has been fully exposed this week as Trump came and went in a swirl of fake news and confusion. I think it was the BBC’s Washington correspondent Jon Sopel who first asked the question ‘what will the Brexiters have to say about Trump’s comments on Brexit, given what they said about Obama’s pro-remain comments two years earlier?’ It’s a good question. At the time of Obama’s comment that the UK may be at the back of the queue for a US/UK trade deal, Jacob Ress-Mogg said “No true honest Briton is going to be told what to do by a Yankee president they’re just not. He can come and tell us all he likes about what we should do but we’re not an American colony and they’re not a colony of ours anymore. It’s so splendidly arrogant for him to think that poor little Blighty is just waiting for big old Uncle Sam to come and tell us what we should do with our European neighbours and which garden we should play in.”
Now of course Rees-Mogg says it’s OK for Trump to talk about a post-Brexit trade deal. Others have not been outraged at all at the US president commenting on UK politics in the way he did to the Sun’s political editor. It reminds me of when Blair was asked about John Prescott taking a swipe at a bloke who threw an egg at him: ‘That’s just John for you.’ So now, when a US president insults the UK prime minister – on the record – all he has to say is ‘that was fake news’ and we can all rest easy that we’re not going to become a vassal state.
The question that is now emerging – either after Trump’s visit or the government’s white paper – is whose vassal state do we want to be? We’ll have no influence on the EU and none with the US. Great result.
We aren't the only ones facing a heatwave. Record high temperatures have been recorded around the world so far this year. People like Nigel Lawson will no doubt see this as evidence that climate change is not happening. But for one moment I thought there might be some good news on the horizon, in the form of the resignation of Scott Pruitt, Trump's director of the US Environmental Protection Agency, someone who like Lawson thinks climate change is a myth. Pruitt set about defenestrating the EPA with a vengeance but was dogged by allegations of his personal extravagance at the taxpayer's expense. The allegations were legion, and Pruitt with his head firmly clamped between his buttocks has chosen to 'protect his family' from the pressure his behaviour exposed them to. His letter of resignation is a pious apology to God, whose representative on earth is one Donald J. Trump. Here's a sample: "My desire in service to you has always been to bless you as you make important decisions for the American people. I believe you are serving as President today because of God's providence. I believe that same providence brought me into your service. I pray as I have served you that I have blessed you and enabled you to effectively lead the American people. Thank you again Mr. President for the honor of serving you and I wish you Godspeed in all that you put your hand to." (emphasis added)
I expect another nutter to be appointed to the role of rolling back environmental protection in the US. This could be important for us, post-Brexit, since the Trump administration's destructive domestic environmental policies are bound to seep through into any trade agreements they might sign up to with the UK. And all we'll be able to say is 'In Gove we trust.'
Esther McVey is a liar. She is the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions who apologised to the House of Commons today for as she put it 'inadvertently misleading' MPs two days ago about what the National Audit Office (NAO) said about Universal Credit (UC). Anyone who watched her statements, conveniently relayed here could hardly have mistaken them for some confused use of language - she was very definite in her misrepresentation of the NAO's assessment of UC. Her apology can only be considered genuine if she was genuinely confused by the NAO report - which rather suggests she's not up to the job. But she's got the backing of her boss, so she must be very good at it. Which leaves only one other option. She lied.
A side aspect of this affair is the BBC's coverage of it on the PM programme tonight, when confirming an observed right-wing bias more airtime was given to a back bench Tory MP to comment on the affair than was given to Labour, who challenged the liar in the first place. Skwawkbox is doing an excellent job exposing the BBC's bias. Is it time for the redoubtable OFCOM to investigate? Methinks not! They would have to take staff off the RT job. No way! Not least in the run-up to an England-Russia World Cup final, when RT are bound to be biased towards Russia.
Jonathan Aitken has received a fair amount of publicity for his ordination as a C of E Deacon. A picture in The Guardian showed the 75-year old in his priest’s robes, a mugshot which reminded me of the kind of mugshot the police take of suspected criminals. Who would take away from Aitken’s path to redemption, and good luck to him. But his story reminded me of all the other ex-MPs who left their political careers with a cloud hanging over them. Some went to prison of course after the expenses scandal. Others have left when they would rather have not. Prominent in the second category is every Prime Minister since the Second World War, barring Harold Wilson – a fact in itself which raises one’s esteem for the oft maligned Yorkshire lad. Most ex-PMs seem to suffer from a disease known as Former Premier’s Ignominy.
I imagine that one of the biggest problems these former MPs have to face is the loss of relevance. In prison or forced expulsion from No. 10, the sudden loss of influence most probably affects them more than for most ex-MPs. What do they do with themselves? I thought it might be worth seeing how they got on. I have, after all, little better to do then track down websites and share in the grief that being irrelevant engenders. Naturally, in looking at the post-Westminster/Whitehall careers of convicts and PMs I am not saying they are of the same class – merely that a sense of ignominy undoubtedly attaches itself to both. Who is seen as more culpable of failure and a total lack of judgement - David Cameron or his erstwhile Cabinet colleague Chris Huhne?
Cameron seems not to have a website – or at least one doesn’t appear in the first 20 Google search results for ‘David Cameron website.’ But he has a Twitter site, which appears to have nearly 2 million followers. We’ll see if that’s a benchmark for a former PM. His tweets are largely about the charities he supports and his congrats to various members of the royal family on their good fortune. In May he met the President of Mexico. There’s something else he didn’t see coming. He probably makes a good bit of dosh on the Washington speakers’ panel. All in all, he’s got his favourite seat at the Carlton Club nicely warmed, and isn’t that what life is all about? Sherry anyone?
Chris Huhne is a different kettle of fish. His website is, for an ex-convict still of working age, not surprisingly self-promotional. He lists his skills, in fact his entire CV – minus A levels – from a long time ago till now, curiously omitting to mention that he may have picked up some life skills in the nick. Seriously, why leave that bit out? Aitken’s got over it, indeed he seems to be making a virtue of his redemptive qualities. Anyone reading Huhne’s online presence is hardly going to be unaware of his egregious past misjudgement. It’s an interesting omission from an otherwise unblemished path to brilliance. But state retirement age beckons, and having been a Cabinet minister in a generally hopeless coalition government is not the best sell anyway. Time for the slippers!
Denis MacShane comes to mind. Our knowledgeable and affable former Europe Minister, who speaks many languages I assume continues to believe that his time inside was unmerited, since he says that he never made anything from his wrongly claimed expenses for his personal benefit. Denis does not appear to have a website, but has a Twitter feed which is crammed packed with tweets and retweets about Brexit. It’s like reading some impenetrable code, and I guess that’s one of the languages Denis is quite well versed in. It’s not a good advert for his most recent tome, whose title suggests the UK will not be leaving the EU. It is currently 49,647 on the Amazon bestseller list (believe me, that’s quite good) but has only middling reviews (7 positive, 12 critical) ‘Bandcandy’ wrote “Reading this book made me recall what one of my teachers at school once told the class about essay writing. Don’t feel obliged to dump everything you know into your essay. Pick out the most important facts and set them out so you can hang an elegant argument around them. It’s a bit like the difference between dumping a load of clothes, including some which are very lovely, in a heap in a shop window, rather than displaying them artfully to best draw the eye.” Verdict: Must do better.
A real big gun he was, the biggest in the land: Tony Blair. He still is. He has a website (aka the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change), a Facebook page and of course a Twitter account. All of these are no doubt serviced by a vast army of young 1st Class Oxbridge PPE alumni, and for want of a better word, convey a sense of momentum. Tony still makes speeches, and I suspect of all the ex-MPs surveyed here he stills runs on his as yet undischarged, original Duracell batteries. But all this energy reminds me of my theme: irrelevance. The more Tony speaks, the less people (at least those who aren’t paying) want to hear. What went wrong? Never mind Iraq, that was just a side show – Tony’s mission was, and I think still is, the Third Way. He had to speak to some badass folk – ‘W’, Gaddafi, Assad, and other various ‘developing democracy’ types – this was in pursuit of their enlightenment at the master’s knees. Now Tony doesn’t understand what went wrong, and it’s all too complicated for this blog. But TB’s sense of irrelevance my not yet have quite reached rock bottom. Jez may still enter No.10. (And HE was irrelevant before he was relevant, which is some trick.)
Who better to follow Tony than Gordon? No, I mean it. At the time we had no better candidate to ride to a fall than Gordon Brown, who nevertheless by his own Freudian admission saved the world. Or, if not the world then the banking system. Spot the difference. Gordon shares a website with wife Sarah, and that’s a good thing. It’s a good thing in itself – to acknowledge the other – even if the web address merely comes up as ‘The Office of Gordon and Sarah Brown,’ (emphasis added) and one of the featured items promotes an event where ‘Gordon Brown is to reflect candidly on four decades on the front line of politics, interviewed by the woman who knows him best – and matters most – Sarah Brown.’ Expect fireworks? Perhaps not. But even now it may still hurt to be remembered as a ‘clunking fist’ who went down to one of Labour’s worst defeats for which he later said he may have added a further 30 or so Labour losses. The sad fact of Gordon’s career is that he was at his best in Tony’s shadow. His web presence is but a shadow of Tony’s go-to zip-bang-wallop bang-for-your-buck planetary phenomenon. There doesn’t seem to be a lot happening there (but yes, there are good causes). Gordon’s latest tome, My Life, Our Times ranks 53,012 on the Amazon best seller list, coming 3,000 or so behind MacShane‘s anti-Brexit mash. Can’t be good. Time for a reboot.