I’m not quite sure if it amounts to an endorsement, but a Guardian Leader comment on Brexit (Friday) finished “To stop no deal, MPs must adopt some Johnsonian ruthlessness and be ready to bring down the prime minister and put someone else, probably Jeremy Corbyn, in his place.” I had to rub my eyes, but yes that’s exactly what the paper said. Perhaps the columnist had read Pledge Number Six on Labour’s pledge card which calls for “A public vote on any Brexit deal, Labour will campaign to Remain against No Deal or a bad Tory deal.” What could be clearer? (emphasis added)
I was out door knocking on Thursday, in the beautiful North York Moors village of Castleton. I was interested to see what people made of the current state of British politics. I imagined in this neck of the woods there would be quite a few Tories, but I think Labour had the slight numerical advantage. It has to be said that not all potential Labour voters like Corbyn, and I suspect part of this is to do with his perceived metropolitan background, rather than any ‘hard’ left-wing perception. One bloke told me he had always supported Labour but wasn’t keen with the way it had changed under Corbyn - or indeed Blair. I think he must have been a Wilson supporter. Another chap told me ‘they are all liars’ and didn’t feel inclined to vote. He was a Brexiter. Maybe Farage will get his support, after all Farage is a paragon of truthfulness.
I have to say I think the Queen has let us down. Since my post earlier today, she has agreed to Johnson’s request to prorogue parliament early. It may not be quite the same thing, but when the German President Hindenburg in 1933 invited private first class Adolf Hitler—from a parliamentary minority party—to form a government, the consequences were huge, and unforeseen by most. The established right in Germany didn’t believe Hitler was capable of very much and assumed he would do their bidding. But Germany, passing through its phase of the largely directionless Weimar government resorted to a quick fix. It could be that her Majesty will go down in history as Britain’s Hindenburg. Who was advising her? Presumably her Private Secretary since 2017, Edward Young CVO had some say in this. A search on the intermet for Young’s CV is sadly a little light on detail. He went to private school and ended up working for Barclays Bank. But for those who like something a little juicier, there are multiple hits on a website—CarrollMarylandTrustCase—which seems to imply Young was complicit in some fraud case. The website is so poorly designed, it is impossible to say exactly what it is they think Young did, and on that basis alone I cannot take it seriously. But a Barclays banker Young was, and these days that’s hardly a recommendation.
Given the time that had elapsed between the public learning of Johnson’s plans for closing parliament down and the Queen’s acquiescence it looks like hardly any legal or constitutional advice was sought. Or perhaps it was, well beforehand, in which case the Queen’s position hardly improves, since she seems to have ignored her Privy Council, many of whom I suspect would have found some diplomatic way of forestalling a precipitate decision by Her Maj. So perhaps it was all left to one ex-banker to whisper in Her ear. I don’t know. Maybe somebody is shorting the British economy?
Well, the UK has sunk to a new low. All we need now is to see whether Johnson’s early termination of parliamentary democracy next month will be followed up by a few Brownshirt torchlit marches through the streets of London. His supporters will no doubt struggle with the word ‘prorogue’ but they will themselves definitely be pro-rogue. In the circumstances, we shall see whether there are sufficient Tories left who still believe in constitutional government and would be willing to vote for a no-confidence motion. Surely this has to be what Corbyn calls for next, since Johnson appears to have made the ‘legislative route’ to stopping no-deal an impossibility. Now there can be no excuses left for wishy-washy opponents of Corbyn, from whatever source to dither any longer. It’s one minute to midnight. Without a successful no-confidence motion in her handbag I doubt the Queen would have sufficient reason to block Johnson’s demagoguery.
It must have been pure coincidence that an invitation to Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, to chair some sort of Brexit ‘citizens’ assembly’ was announced the same day as Jeremy Corbyn’s meeting with opposition leaders. Perhaps I’m being too cynical, but the opportunity to squeeze a few words out of the reverend helped downplay the significance of the Corbyn initiative. Apparently Welby’s invitation was sent by some centrist MPs, including Labour’s Yvette Cooper. I have to count it as yet another attempt to stymie whatever Corbyn seeks to achieve on Brexit. But Corbyn has demonstrated an ability to move and to compromise, and continues, perhaps mistakenly in these divided times, to seek reconciliation between opposing camps. This was Welby’s thought too, although in his interview on the BBC’s PM programme he failed to say whether Jesus was in favour of Brexit or not. Surely there must be some opaque biblical reference that could be pressed into use here?
+For art lovers everywhere there’s a fantastic exhibition coming up next month. This runs from the 14th to the 22nd September at Barmoor, which is just north of Hutton le Hole. Where’s Hutton le Hole you ask? Just north of Kirkbymoorside, on the edge of the North York Moors. It will be splendid show. Yes, some of my stuff will be in it.
+Today marked the day when the last Kittiwakes nesting on Scarborough Castle cliff departed. There were some, perhaps around a hundred still there yesterday. Despite the weather, summer is coming to an end.
+It’s getting tedious in the extreme. It seems that no news bulletin can start without the words ‘Boris Johnson.’ What follows is always even worse. He takes us all for fools.
The ‘suicide’ of Jeffrey Epstein, the multi-millionaire sex crime felon has really set the internet alight with conspiracy theories. Basically these amount to Epstein being a Mossad agent setting up honeytraps designed to capture powerful individuals who then could (presumably) be blackmailed into working for Israel’s interests. The supposed evidence for this is that Epstein’s close friend Ghislaine Maxwell is the daughter of the late lamented Robert Maxwell, who probably was a Mossad asset of some sort. I think we will have to wait quite awhile for a definitive, evidence based assessment of this theory. In the meantime, all is mere assertion. But one feature I do find interesting is the inevitable media focus on Prince Andrew’s relationship with Epstein. This has all the traits of one of Lynton Crosby’s ‘dead cat’ tactics, something thrown onto the table to distract us from the real story. I suspect Prince Andrew’s involvement in all this can simply be summed up by saying he’s not very bright.
+An irritating reminder from TV Licensing that I have just ‘days left’ to renew my license—when actually I have a full two weeks. They tell me it expires on the 31st August, which means it must be renewed on the 1st September. I wonder how many people respond immediately to this gently pressurising e-mail? If just one million people did, somebody somewhere would be gathering interest on £155,000,000 for a couple of weeks, around £120,000 if at 2% p.a. Screw ‘em.
+It’s a good job I don’t eat corn flakes for breakfast. I would have choked on them reading the Guardian this morning. A whole article was devoted to a speech Jeremy Corbyn is due to give today. A whole article! And not a word of criticism! What’s going on? Have they woken up to the possibility that we need to get rid of our neo-fascist, lying, cheating, amoral delinquent Prime Minister and that maybe, just maybe the Leader of H.M. Opposition is constitutionally charged with this task? And actually has some decent policies as well as a rational approach to Brexit? (I only threw in the description of Johnson as a ‘neo-fascist’ for good measure. He’s probably not a neo-fascist, but I bet some people who take inspiration from him are borderline cases.)
Is Greta Thunberg a Good Thing? The answer to this question may rely on what media you consume. Guardian readers would probably say ‘yes’ whilst many readers of Murdoch’s press in Australia, the world’s biggest exporter of coal might say ‘no.’ My view is a bit of both. On the one hand she is asking the question many complacent politicians fail to answer when they mouth platitudes about ‘our children and our children’s children’s future,’ as if this makes them sound sincere. They care less about these unknown future generations than their current status, if one judges by deeds not words. Thunberg has put the spotlight on the generation that will face the climate change crisis in its fullness.
On the other hand, her trip to the U.S. in a carbon emissions free sailing boat sets what seems like an unobtainable goal for the vast majority of people. Another long used epithet favoured by politicians (particularly amongst underachieving politicians) is ‘don’t let the perfect drive out the good.’ In terms of climate change, I no longer believe there is a ‘perfect’ solution, since feedback mechanisms may already have reached a tipping point, and what humans started nature will finish to its own design. Greta’s trip, worthy in the extreme, sadly does not set a precedent many—or indeed any – others will follow, and the temptation therefore is that her role model status will be as easily replicable as the divine life of the ever-perfect Jesus. But then maybe I assuming too much, perhaps she is not saying ‘look at me, if I can do this so can you.’
So far as carbon-free crossings of the Atlantic are concerned we should take a leaf out of our ancestors' book and rediscover the merits of going with the wind—they still did it 150 years ago. It may take longer than with fossil fuelled transport, but with other new technologies probably not as long as before. As regards air travel, bring back dirigibles—clothed in solar energy generating textiles. Yes, still a longer journey time than a 747, but within reason. As for other contact with distant shores there’s always Skype or some such technology which permits extensive conferencing, if not drinks receptions during that essential process known as ‘networking.’ I am sure a substitute could be found.
I’ve had a brief and pleasant escape from all things political in Middlesbrough. This may not be an obvious choice for a break, but as I become more familiar with the place and its environs it reveals its attractions. This in large part is due to my doing an M.A. in Fine Art at Teesside University (or the newly created MIMA School of Art, after the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art). It has to be said that it helps if you find the industrial landscape fascinating and full of inspiration. The landscape here has been transformed more than most by industrial use (competitors might be Grangemouth or Immingham). I began my studies on the South Gare breakwater on the south side of the Tees, a spit not unlike Spurn Point, but largely made from slabs of concrete built on top of slag created by the iron and steel works. They had to do something with it. This otherworldly spike into the North Sea therefore has a connection with the tranquil heather carpeted North York Moors, from whence came much of the iron ore—by a specially constructed railway down from Rosedale. The dale’s mines closed down early in the twentieth century. It took another century before the Redcar blast furnace was closed. Now it stands as a derelict memorial to an almost extinct industry. Its site lies two or three metres above sea level on reclaimed land. Whatever eventually replaces it will have to be built to withstand the sea level rise for which it was partly responsible for. There’ll be no slag this time round to displace the sea.
Then onto North Gare, across the estuary in the shadow of the Hartlepool nuclear power station, which perhaps ironically will be shut down in a few years’ time, before it too could be swamped (it survived the 2013 tidal surge). Around this side of the river there is a network of nature reserves, and now one could almost imagine being in some Dutch pastoral painting of the Golden Age, the flat land populated with cattle grazing amidst uncultivated marshes and ancient sea defences. Having said which, I was surprised to see something I’ve never seen in a Dutch painting, namely a large brown cow mounting a somewhat smaller, indifferent black bullock. What did it think it was up to? Is this normal behaviour? Or has its hormones been so tampered with it wanted to emulate the randy behaviour of a bull? I wish I’d got a picture of this sight, lest no-one believes me. However, I’m sure farmers will have witnessed such strange bovine behaviour regularly.
Always in the background on the horizon of this landscape is the forest of smokestacks, refineries and huge sheds which house who knows what industries. One of the largest structures is a North Sea oil rig being cut up in the yard of Able UK (who achieved some notoriety over a decade ago for accepting some old U.S. Navy ships for dismantling.) Further beyond this behemoth one can see the slender blades of the wind turbines of the Redcar offshore windfarm gracefully turning. The past and the future together—I assume the steel from the old oil platforms may go into the making of the wind turbines. They’re being built a little further upstream.
This is a curious, strange terrain, its flatness accentuated by the distant escarpment of the North York Moors, with its emblematic Roseberry Topping suggestive of an immovable mountain dominating the plain. There was iron ore mining on the flanks of that too, but I’m not sure it amounted to much more than a brief cottage industry. Perhaps that’s going to be the way of much that now sits on the reclaimed mudflats of the Tees, if climate change has its way.
The ‘anyone but Corbyn’ faction are plotting away, according to Skwawkbox, to ensure that a no-confidence vote against Johnson succeeds but then the idea is that Parliament fails to support Corbyn in a confidence vote in him, thus paving the way for someone to take over who is more amenable to the centrist establishment. This all sounds very plausible. The names of Ken Clarke and Harriet Harman have been mooted as temporary trustees of the keys to No.10, but surely there must be at least a score of particularly Labour MPs who fancy their chances. Yvette Cooper and Hillary Benn both come to mind, and I bet the thought has crossed their minds. But how would this square with the Labour Party? It would be an effective coup, since it is highly unlikely that whoever took on this role might want to voluntarily relinquish it after—who knows what—and hand the baton back to Corbyn. The Labour Party would be split, the 1930s all over again. Conversely, the short term government proposal could strengthen the hard right in the Tory party. It’s hard to see Johnson standing aside from his party’s leadership even if he were ousted from No.10. In this scenario he may look to Ted Heath for a precedent. Ironies upon ironies. Who would want to miss this autumn’s Whitehall farce?