Johnson is ‘willing to lie anywhere’
Dear Sir, — So here we are, a calendar month since the start of Brexit and what do we find has changed? Certainly the path towards a no-deal outcome is looking clearer, despite all the warnings and fears from economists, manufacturers, service businesses, farmers, etc.
Michael Gove has openly admitted there will, of course, be more customs checks, duties and formalities at UK borders, including between the mainland and Northern Ireland, despite all the previous misrepresentations and half-truths from all parts of the Government about how seamless it would be with the wonderful deal they would negotiate. We are hardly surprised.
Obviously the EU will be painted as the “bad guys”, but in truth it is the UK’s backsliding from the mutually agreed intentions set out in the “political agreement”, particularly regarding environmental and food standards and employment rights, that will form the main sticking point in negotiations towards a deal of any scope.
Boris Johnson doesn’t strike me as the sort of person for whom a “level playing field” would ever be comfortable, being used to having all cards stacked in his favour throughout his life.
Sadly, most of these “level playing field” intentions relate to important protections to our lives and lifestyles, rather than underhand restrictions on our freedom as the PM likes to imply.
The recent Cabinet reshuffle produced outcomes generally in line with expectations, with a sea of new “yes men”, just one or two women, but a couple of notable senior losses.
Firstly, there was the engineered resignation of chancellor Sajid Javid, having been invited to drop all his advisers, to be replaced by appointees from No. 10.
As he made clear at the time, no self-respecting chancellor would have accepted the conditions to be imposed. As a man with some degree of integrity who might be prepared to “speak truth to power”, he had to go.
A bigger surprise was the sacking of Julian Smith as Northern Ireland secretary, a man who had been roundly praised by all sides for his contribution to re-establishment of the power-sharing government at Stormont. This is not a post where the holder often draws praise, so this sacking was a strange reward for a rare and worthy achievement. But of course he was someone who had spoken against Mr Johnson’s plans earlier in the Brexit process and no doubt his card had been marked for some time.
A week or more back we had the resignation of Andrew Sabisky, a recently appointed government special adviser with previously published racist and eugenics views. As a self-proclaimed “political super-forecaster”, you might have thought he could foresee those views could become a problem at some point in his career. Perhaps the most telling thing about the whole escapade was that no-one in Government would answer the basic questions of which department he was to work in, whom for, who appointed him, or who vetted or signed off his appointment.
While it is generally assumed that he was one of Dominic Cummings’ “weirdos and misfits”, all special adviser appointments have to be authorised by someone in Government and it remains a mystery who that might have been.
Now, the head civil servant in the home office, Sir Philip Rutnam, has resigned citing a “vicious and orchestrated campaign” of briefing against him, led by the scary (my word, not his) home secretary Priti Patel. He plans to sue the home office for constructive dismissal.
While on the subject of the home secretary, it was instructive to note that she admitted her own family would have been debarred from entering the country under the new “points-based” immigration rules that she now has planned. Does that mean then that, in her current reckoning, her own family wouldn’t have been worthy to be welcome as citizens into the UK ? A curious state of affairs.
As usual, in the planned new qualification rules, the gross mistake is made of equating expected wages to the skill levels of an applicant. When did remuneration ever properly reflect skills or the social value of jobs undertaken? If it did, we wouldn’t have millions of people from working families dependent on food banks across the country. The consequence of this typically blinkered thinking will no doubt be shortages of care workers, seasonal agricultural workers and so on.
All the while, the country is widely awash with floods. During the election campaign in November we can remember Mr Johnson being all over our television screens and newspapers, pressing the public flesh in flooded Yorkshire and beyond in his best “man of the people” impersonation, calling a Cobra meeting at the drop of a hat, to show his grip on the situation.
These days his customary complacency is showing, with his notable absence and seemingly no need for Cobra meetings yet, either for the now very serious and more widespread flooding, or the likely onset of a more significant Coronavirus outbreak.
Others have written much on HS2, its ludicrous “business case”, the environmental damage, loss of people’s property and the sheer bloody-mindedness of spending £100bn (and rising) on a point-to-point railway line. As a born and bred southerner who moved here in 1984, it has always seemed strangely patronising, if not downright insulting, that HS2 protagonists talk as though the so-called Northern Powerhouse can only succeed if it is more tightly tied to London.
It seems likely to me the main reasons for Mr Johnson deciding in its favour are the scale of climbdown needed to write off money already wasted (he has quite a track record of such things) and probably much pressure from his pals in major construction companies who have already banked some of the profits.
Finally, the appeal court deserves praise for its decision to uphold the appeal against the third runway at Heathrow, on the basis that the required documentation made no reference to the UK’s legal responsibilities established in the Paris environmental commitments.
Chris “Failing” Grayling, the transport minister at the time, deemed it wasn’t necessary. This decision has, of course, done Mr Johnson a big favour, given his vote-buying pledge to “lie down in front of the bulldozers” to prevent it going ahead.
But given his willingness to lie absolutely anywhere, doing it in front of bulldozers wouldn’t have been too difficult I guess. — Yours faithfully,