Anna Soubry’s twopennorth . . .

From”The Guardian“, 23 July 2019 . . .

Around 92,000 members who no longer even represent Conservative voters have crowned the “clown prince” as our prime minister. Just when we need a prime minister to bring us together, lead us through the Brexit crisis and on to tackling the serious issues we must confront, the party serves up Boris Johnson. His lifelong ambition has finally been realised; no one and nothing was going to get in his way this time, least of all integrity and truth.

The leadership hustings, far from allaying profound fears about Johnson’s ability and mendacity, went further than merely confirming them. Under friendly fire, he revealed he is actually worse than we had thought.

The hustings also revealed the real Conservative party and its drift to the right. It wasn’t simply that the members don’t look like today’s UK – 71% male and 97% white – it was more about what they said. And the regular applause for Johnson’s dog-whistle rightwing rhetoric proved – as did the election result – that Tory members were prepared, indeed pleased, to lose jobs and the union rather than lose their precious no-deal Brexit. That move to the right, away from the centre ground inhabited by One Nation Conservatives, was the major reason I left the Tory party, after serving it as an MP for nine years.
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Johnson is the man who wrote in June 2016, following the referendum, that “the only change – and it will not come in any great rush – is that the UK will extricate itself from the EU’s extraordinary and opaque system of legislation”. He soon changed his mind, agreeing as a member of the cabinet to considerably more “changes”, notably our departure from both the single market and customs union. In late 2017 Johnson approved the foundations of Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement but, true to form, changed his mind and resigned when it became a reality. In March this year, Johnson voted for the withdrawal agreement he had described as an “absolute stinker” and the Irish backstop he’d labelled a “constitutional abomination”. Really there’s no end to his shame. Now he threatens a crash-out “do or die” with a no-deal Brexit by the end of October, though he claims there’s only a million to one chance of it happening. Little wonder he is known as the “great charlatan”.

Even before Johnson had been announced as the winner, ministers who had worked with him were queuing up to resign – he has already proven to be the most divisive prime minister ever, and that’s just in his own party. Johnson has a record of ineptitude and irresponsibility, leading to an almost universal verdict that he was the worst foreign secretary in living memory. Johnson has a reputation for laziness and not reading his briefs, and however good his civil servants and the recall of the small army of competent people who protected him as mayor of London, these fundamental flaws will be exposed as prime minister – bluster and buffoonery will not do.

Now he is determined to deliver no deal – a grossly irresponsible Brexit. The 2016 leave campaign leaders, like Johnson himself, specifically promised this wouldn’t happen. His vision has been embraced by the Conservative party, yet further evidence of its race to the right. Johnson now represents an ideologically driven party determined to crash us out of the EU in defiance of the needs and wishes of millions of hardworking people.

What Boris Johnson hasn’t done is tell us how he is going to ensure we leave the EU on 31 October. The EU is adamant the negotiations are closed. In any event, the commission will not be in place until November – one of those details that Boris ignores. It is genuinely difficult to see any Boris-wrestling or any sweetener that could make May’s deal more palatable to the DUP and the European Research Group rebels. Last week’s vote by parliament, in effect, again showed a majority against any crash-out, no-deal Brexit. So how is Johnson going to achieve his promise? Admittedly, as the evidence shows, his standout ability is to change his mind to suit his purpose and audience.

Johnson’s vision has been embraced by the Conservatives. The dominant force of ideologically driven rightwing hard Brexiteers will be the party’s downfall. They would sacrifice the economic future, notably for our young people.

The Tories always used to put the country’s economic interests first. British voters should not forgive them for abandoning the pragmatic centrist policies that once made the Conservatives the natural party of government.

Anna Soubry is a former Conservative MP and now leader of The Independent Group for Change

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Your New Prime Minister . . .

LONDON — Boris Johnson, to whom lying comes as easily as breathing, is on the verge of becoming prime minister. He faces the most complex and intractable political crisis to affect Britain since 1945.

That should be concerning enough. But given Britain’s political system — which relies for its maintenance on the character and disposition of the prime minister — it carries even graver import. Mr. Johnson, whose laziness is proverbial and opportunism legendary, is a man well practiced in deceit, a pander willing to tickle the prejudices of his audience for easy gain. His personal life is incontinent, his public record inconsequential.

And his premiership could bring about the end of Britain itself.

The New York Times, 22 July 2019

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A Prorogued Democracy ?

News from the Good Law Project and Jolyon Maugham QC . . .

Suspending Parliament is the act of a dictator. We can’t allow it.

Yet again, a No Deal Brexit – which Parliament has repeatedly rejected – is back on the cards. Boris Johnson has threatened to suspend Parliament to force it through, but that’s not how democracy works. It’s Parliament that must decide what happens with Brexit.

So we have decided to do something about it…

“Supported by the Good Law Project, a cross-party group of members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, from Scotland, Wales and England are going to ask the Court of Session in Scotland to rule out the suspension of Parliament to force through No Deal. We believe our constitution doesn’t allow the Prime Minister to bypass our wishes. You can see the list of petitioners here. Our director, Jolyon Maugham QC, will also be a petitioner.

We will be represented by the legal team that won the Wightman case – the case that established that the United Kingdom could unilaterally cancel the Article 50 notice. Matters will move quickly, so we will apply to the Court of Session – which sits throughout the summer – now and ask for the matter to be heard urgently.

However, the issues are complex and the number of petitioners will add to the costs. There are also likely to be a number of interventions from interested parties. We expect to need to raise £100,000 to have the issue determined in the Outer House of the Court of Session. Of this we assume £40,000 will be incurred at the ‘permission’ stage.

Please consider supporting this important legal challenge – we need your help.”

The crowdfunding page can be accessed here.

Decadenona has contributed £10.00, on the principle of “putting your money where your mouth is”.

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Johnson, Amoral and Ignorant . . .

It is one thing to have a candidate for leadership of the Conservative Party and hence likely to be Prime Minister, if only for a short time, who is known to be devoid of any moral sense in the matter of truth and his relationships with women, but when you add to that his sublime ignorance as shown by this tweet, you begin to realise the abyss which awaits us.

Shows a tweet by Emily Maitlis.
Tweet by Emily Maitlis

The effect of leaving the EU without any preparations having been made beforehand has been clearly set out on the EU Commission’s web site for two or more years. I myself advised a friend to read it in early 2017, James Patrick (@J_amesp) on Twitter was publishing advice on what the ordinary citizen should be doing at about that time as well. We constructed our own little stockpile of food at that time, and the irony is that the prevarications of Parliament since mean that we now have to check it to see if the things we bought are getting close to their use-by dates !

Overall these eventualities have been known and discussed for most of that time, and now the idiot Johnson seems to be taken aback by them. When the referendum result was known on 24th July 2016 the message to me (I was quite upset, shocked and frightened) was the likelihood of civil unrest. Indeed the referendum result itself showed civil unrest widely spread across the country which is, in my opinion, why the Government and then the House of Commons panicked as it did.

A caveat is that the source of this information is not made clear so we have to face the possibility that it is another piece of fake news. It seems to be a screen shot from a mobile phone working on the O2 network as seen below . . .

Tweet by Emily Maitlis

So, make of it what you will. Emily Maitlis seems to be quite well respected, but even the best journalists are working in the dark these days, so it might all be a red herring. Knowing our man’s track record it is a well conceived story, all the more believable because it has been tailored to fit his track record so exactly.

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Where we are at . . .

The following is a cut and paste job of an article published in Prospect Magazine which sums up our present situation so well I thought it deserved to be pinched.

“If, during the 2016 referendum campaign, you had told voters that MPs would be scrambling to stop the prime minister shutting down the legislature in order to force through food shortages, mass job losses and a crash in the pound, someone might have needed to change the slogan on the side of that bus. What is happening right now in Britain goes beyond any previously conceivable limits of responsible or accountable governance. Viewed against the country which seemed to exist just a few years ago, it is quite literally unbelievable.

It’s not just that Brexit is a case of “I told you so”: the harm to our national political fabric has been more catastrophic than even the most pessimistic Remainer could have contemplated.

Britain is now heading into immediate, unabated crisis, but the consequences could last for years or even decades. Even the most conservative estimates suggest damage to our economy in all circumstances if we leave, contrary to everything campaigners promised. The neutral Office for Budget Responsibility this week forecast a significant recession in the event of no-deal. But the economic damage will almost certainly take less time to repair than the damage to our politics and society. What was billed as a way for people to take back control of democracy has become a systematic attack on every institution which underpins it.

First the Brexiters came for political opponents. Any prominent Remainer who dared question the legitimacy of the referendum or, heaven forbid, suggested a new one in the light of changed circumstances, was branded a traitor, an enemy of democracy, an elitist, a Remoaner, someone who wanted to subvert the will of the people, someone who knew best, someone who hated Britain. It was devastatingly effective. Brexit’s leaders rapidly and comprehensively refigured democratic opposition as opposition to democracy. All potential opponents, particularly in parliament itself, were cowed into affirming “respect for the result.” It became a standard vow of allegiance to a movement they knew to be disastrous, and they had little choice but to make it. In some cases the alternative quite literally threatened to be physical violence.

Then the Brexiters moved on to the media. Journalists or newspapers who attempted to speak for the 48 per cent of voters who had not endorsed the project were denounced for their lack of enthusiasm. The suggestion that journalistic rigour might trump settled belief somehow became suspicious. In the new approved discourse, lying about one’s country was a greater act of love than talking freely about it.

It wasn’t just that telling the truth became radical. Even asking questions was deemed objectionable. Anyone who pointed out the risks, unknown consequences or indeed the verifiable facts of Brexit was accused of “talking Britain down.” Andrea Leadsom on one occasion called for broadcasters to be more “patriotic.”

After the Daily Mail branded High Court judges “enemies of the people” for daring to give parliament (the people’s representatives) the right to trigger Brexit, attention soon enough turned to the civil service. The wiser Brexiters quickly realised that they would have to line up a scapegoat for the inevitable moment their project collapsed, and civil servants were the easiest target. They could not answer back, but were at the same time doomed to fail, because the purpose of Brexit was to satisfy romantic myth and the purpose of Whitehall is to execute political reality.

A key early victim was the UK’s permanent representative to the EU, Ivan Rogers, who resigned after ministers refused to listen to his advice. Then came the prime minister’s negotiator, Olly Robbins, whose failure to deliver a miracle was deemed a sign of pro-Remain bias. Finally and most shamefully came the UK’s ambassador to the US, Kim Darroch, who resigned after someone leaked his frank diplomatic cables. Darroch became a pawn in a much larger campaign, which ultimately demands the replacement of politically neutral civil servants with sycophantic pro-Brexit courtiers. Those who fail to demonstrate sufficient personal passion for the cause must simply be purged.

The Brexiters’ most enduring and destructive assault has been on the legislature. In this lies the greatest irony. The process advertised to “take back control” for parliament has for three years fronted a relentless attempt to take it away. As the mission creep of Brexit itself has advanced (guaranteed access to the single market has now given way to no deal at all) so has the brazenness of the campaign against parliamentary democracy. It was not enough for the executive to attempt to deny MPs a meaningful say. Now it threatens to force through a policy unhindered by opposition. To call this a democratic outrage is to understate the case. It would be a travesty unseen since the English Civil War. The prime minister derives their legitimacy and authority from the House of Commons alone. It is the absolute source of national sovereignty. If you shut down parliament, you shut down democracy. This week MPs voted against prorogation, but many further battles await in the autumn—none of them previously imaginable.

This assault on democratic institutions and norms is not taking place in isolation. It is embedded in a far wider authoritarian movement which aims to empower the right-wing fringes of society and political opinion. We saw it only too clearly this week in Donald Trump’s racist declaration that four ethnic-minority congresswomen should “go back… [to the] places from which they came,” and at his subsequent rally, the chants of “send her back.” The circumstances may be new, but the broader ambition echoes down the ages and across political cultures. It is to attack freedom, pluralism and diversity in the pursuit of power.

What we can see now in Britain is a kind of national derangement. It has become clear that Brexit was never about leaving the EU. Indeed, that is its least important element. Brexit is, or became, a nationalist identitarian culture war. As a project it purports to be open and global but in truth parades dogmatic rigidity and smallness. It requires unquestioned devotion to a creed from people trapped into political submission. This dogma purges dissent, erases opposition and expels non-believers. Because the truth must not be spoken, the institutions which depend on it must be silenced.

It is time to call this project for what it is. Brexit’s leaders are seeking to break every guarantor of British democracy, one by one. Each month brings unprecedented outrage. If we don’t end this soon, it may become too late to end it at all.”

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Mighty Text . . .

Mighty Text web site

It is a pleasure to be able to compliment a business on their efficiency. I recently received a bill from my Tesco Club Card Credit Card for about £32 which had been paid to Mighty Text – an app I once patronised. I had long ago ceased to use it, deleted it from all my gadgetry and had no record of an account for it at all. But I contacted them via their web site and got a reply very promptly. I then dealt with someone called Camilla who asked me various simple straightforward questions, located my account (even the email address was discontinued some time ago) and got the account cancelled without any hassle about why I was doing so. My experience of this sort of thing with other firms is that every time you get a reply, which is about once every two or three days, you have to begin all over again and as often as not your “How may I help you” does not seem to have read what you wrote.

So, well done Mighty Text. Its just a shame that when you get old you have so few correspondents that an app like Mighty Text, so useful for us deaf Oldies, gets so little use.

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Gracefield Arts – Fine Arts Society Exhibition

Pike – a mobile phone photo

I began writing this on my mobile phone sitting on a bench at Gracefield Arts in Dumfries at the Fine Arts Society exhibition.

If these are the fine arts, spare us from the bad arts. It really is very troubling that even with a Fine Arts Society so many aspiring painters cannot actually draw what they see. Impressionism is all very well, but it is not the same thing as banging down a rough sketch. The current exhibition of Charles Oppenheimer’s work at the Kirkcudbright Galleries demonstrates this point beyond a peradventure. He work in he family mosaic business in Manchester and trained as and had to be a draughtsman and it shows. It does not make his work mechanical, or lifeless, but puts the scene in front of you and draws you (well, me anyway) in. And, some of the abstract work makes me fear for the originator’s mental health.

The photograph I have posted was of a group which represented about the best thing in the exhibition, and the pieces, had we chosen to buy one or some, were remarkably inexpensive. But we are not really into fish.

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Spuds

The first lift of our potatoes planted on 4th March 2019.
Variety – Charlotte.
Bought at Castle Douglas Garden Centre.

At Tesco we buy – when they are available, they seem to be less so these days – “Charlotte” which are sold as salad potatoes, but we like them at all meals. These seed potatoes were sold as Charlotte, but when boiled today they soon broke up and seem to be quite unlike the Tesco version. This demands a “Google”.

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Guy Verhofstadt nails it again . . .

I found this today (via Twitter I think) and I thought it was so good that it needed to be preserved and put on public display. So here it is . . .

Guy Verhofstadt

Boris Johnson’s Big Lie

Jun 26, 2019 Guy Verhofstadt

While Boris Johnson, the likely successor to British Prime Minister Theresa May, takes his country down a path of diminished trade, the European Union is negotiating one of the largest free-trade agreements in the world. One really has to wonder what the “buccaneering” Brexiteers have to complain about.

BRUSSELS – Three years after the United Kingdom’s Brexit referendum, the UK is no closer to figuring out how to leave the European Union, and what comes next, than it was when the result was announced. And now a Conservative Party leadership election to replace outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May is in full swing. To those of us watching from the outside, the debate between the candidates confirms that they have learned nothing whatsoever from the past two years of negotiations with the EU.

Sadly, this comes as no surprise, given that the lead candidate is Boris Johnson, the Leave campaign’s most prominent architect and a man who continues to dissemble, exaggerate, and disinform the public about Brexit. In 2016, Johnson and his fellow Brexiteers duped a narrow majority of UK voters into thinking that leaving the EU would somehow furnish the British National Health Service with an additional £350 million ($445 million) per week. He also drummed up fears that Britain’s EU membership would somehow lead to mass immigration from Turkey (which happens to be the homeland of his paternal grandfather, Ali Kemal).

Though Johnson will most likely soon find himself in a position where he must make good on his promises, he continues to spread untruths. Chief among them is the myth that Britain can tear up the withdrawal agreement that May negotiated with the EU, withhold its financial commitments to the bloc, and simultaneously start negotiating free-trade deals. To Johnson’s followers, however, he is more prophet than politician: only he can deliver a mythical “true Brexit” that will deliver the prosperity promised during the referendum campaign.

As is often the case with populists, reality does not square with Johnson’s ensorceling combination of false promises, pseudo-patriotism, and foreigner bashing. He and his fellow Brexiteers speak of a “Global Britain” that will trade freely with the rest of the world, even as they drag their country down a path strewn with uprooted trade ties and substantial new barriers to commerce.

The real global trading power, of course, is the EU, which has recently concluded trade deals with Japan, South Korea, and Canada. As an EU member state, the UK automatically benefits from the 40 trade agreements the bloc has in place with more than 70 countries. If the UK opts for a “hard” Brexit and leaves without a deal, as Johnson has indicated he is willing to do, it would immediately lose preferential access to markets that account for around 11% of its total trade. (Though May’s government has signed continuity deals with some countries, they do not cover nearly as much trade as the UK’s existing arrangement within the EU.)

Moreover, the EU is finalizing negotiations for a new free-trade agreement with the Mercosur bloc – Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay – as part of a broader Association Agreement between the two regions. That will cement the EU’s position as the global leader of open trade. Though European companies already export a great deal to Mercosur – €42 billion in goods in 2016; €22 billion in services in 2015– tariff barriers are currently high. European exporters face levies of 35% on cars, 20-35% on machinery and related components, and 14% on pharmaceuticals. The proposed trade deal doesn’t lack opponents, including some non-governmental organizations and EU member states with substantial beef industries. EU negotiators will have to strike a careful balance to protect the rights of all Europeans across economic sectors. They will also need to address deteriorating human-rights and environmental conditions in Brazil, and push for provisions to encourage companies to act responsibly, uphold food-safety standards, and police against imitations of European food and drink products.

All told, an EU-Mercosur trade agreement – which would be one of the largest trade deals in the world, comprising 750 million people – represents a win-win, creating opportunities for growth and jobs on both sides. At a time when the US and China are locked in a trade and technology war with no end in sight, the EU and the Mercosur countries have a chance to lead the world in a more promising direction. Indeed, there is a strong strategic case for finalizing the agreement. As Martin Sandbu of the Financial Times recently argued, “The EU does not have many military divisions … but it has something nearly as awesome. Authority over the world’s largest market.” The EU must use its collective purchasing power to raise standards globally, particularly with respect to environmental protection. A successful conclusion to the EU-Mercosur talks would send a message to the rest of the world about the value and importance of open trade. With Johnson likely taking power in late July, Europe will have offered still more proof that Brexit is not only unnecessary but also detrimental to Britain’s economic interests. The “buccaneering” Brexiteers might then finally have to explain what it is they’re still complaining about.

Many thanks to the writer, Guy Verhofstadt, and to the web site who published it.

See : https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/boris-johnson-trade-deal-myths-by-guy-verhofstadt-2019-06

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“Smart Meters”

Read the gas meter preparatory to sending it off to OVO on line. Once on line I discovered that there was already a reading entered for 19 June – by smart meter !!* I can only assume that the plumber did it when he was altering the gas supply, or possibly, that once the protective fibreglass cover was removed the smart meter was able to communicate, being unshielded. I messaged the plumber to ask him about it, but no reply as yet (12.50 pm).

Outside weeding between us and a neighbour I heard a voice and chatted away thinking it was his daughter. Eventually I turned around and saw two strangers who I quickly sussed as being Jehovah’s Witnesses. The lady tried to convince me via 2 Timothy (on her mobile phone) that all was going downhill and the end was nigh. We chatted amicably for some time and I was able to say something which enabled the conversation to end. I tried to deter them from going to our neighbour’s (he has been unwell) house, but I don’t know if I succeeded.

Meanwhile the Skoda came back from Rogersons all OK, and Bruce had a look at the passenger door lock arrangements on the Toyota. All very embarrassing ! He simply pulled up the lock/unlock knob provided for the purpose and that was that. Then he and I put some Duck Oil into the boot lid lock and that freed itself up straight away too.

*Background : We have two smart meters, one on the electricity supply on the north side of the house, and one on the gas supply which is on the south facing wall. The electricity meter works well and our account is always up to date.The gas meter has never worked properly and a passing gas engineer told me that it uses the Vodaphone telephone network and the mast for that is away to the north of us, so that the gas meter is completely shielded by the house. Thus I have to read it each month and send the reading in via our online account. So, smart meters are not very smart.

The plumber replied and said that he did not send in any meter reading, but he did switch the meter off while working on the supply. He wonders if so doing caused the meter to send a signal. But why does the signal not get through at other times ? My suspicion is that whilst the work was going on and the fibre glass cover over the meter was removed, the signal transmitter was unshielded and maybe that was what enabled the signal to get out.

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