Sunday, July 24, 2016

Quote of the day 24th July 2016

"We Tory Remain voters have had a little moan, a big sulk and a quiet tear. But now we must snap out of it, or there’s a terrible danger of slipping into a sort of Tsarist Russian émigré state of mind, dining with each other, dreaming of a return and taking secret pleasure in any setback our country may suffer.

I’m resolved not to scour each morning’s papers for news of a fall in sterling, or greet reports of businesses leaving Britain with a grimly satisfied “I told you so”. It’s corrosive. Real livelihoods, real people are at stake and we must wish always for the best. There’s a decent chance that after a few bumps along the way our economy will be fine. With heart as well as head we must wish only for this."

"Leave the nation to reflect. Leave Mrs May to construct the best deal available. Do nothing to undermine her. Give her all the help we can. Counsel the compromise she may need to recommend. And if she succeeds, as with skill and luck she might, let’s own, with her, a new, calm, businesslike way of living with the EU. "

(Matthew Parris, from a Times article, "The Remainer refuseniks must snap out of it.")

Saturday, July 23, 2016

After the "Leave" vote - Matthew Parris on finding a way forward

As I said at the start of the previous post, the referendum has happened. Leave won. However much  48% of us regret that, we have to accept the reality of it and find a way to move forward.

I spent a day or so in the "Denial" and several weeks in the "Anger" phases of my response, but that cannot last and we have to come back together as a country and find a constructive way forward.

Journalist and former MP Matthew Parris appears to be emerging from a much deeper phase of anger than I did, writing at one point that for the first time in his life he felt ashamed to be British.

I didn't have that reaction, and I see the attitude represented by the phrase in the third paragraphs of the article below "We think the voters got it wrong" as an attractive but dangerous temptation to be resisted, not as a position I would defend. (If you read the article in context, I think it is pretty clear that this is also how Matthew Parris intended his words to be taken.)

But as I just inferred, Matthew is now emerging from his denial and anger stage.

Not everyone will agree with everything he wrote in his Times article, "The Remainer refuseniks must snap out of it," indeed I don't agree with every word of it myself, but he makes some very salient points about the need to resist the temptation to be pleased when things go wrong for our country because you can say "I told you so" and about the need to support Theresa May in finding ways to make Brexit a reality which work successfully for Britain.

Here are some extracts from the article.

"Revanchist is a word used to describe a movement to take back lost territory or standing and to reassert the old order. There is today a strong revanchist undercurrent running among millions of us who voted to remain part of the European Union. Like many, I have been tempted by it.

We sense that Leave gained its winning edge by untruths, and by a disreputable appeal to a dislike of immigrants that came close to racism. We suspect that the best terms for a Brexit that our government can get may fall far short of what Leave voters thought they were promised. We wonder whether, once the shape of a likely deal becomes apparent, people should be asked again. We nurse a vague hope that parliament may come to a similar view.

Let’s spit it out. We think the voters got it wrong last month, and dream of giving them another chance to get it right.

Ever since the small hours of June 24 I’ve wrestled with this temptation. I’ve teetered on the brink of succumbing and joining the Remainer refuseniks. I have felt ashamed to be British, and a panicky sense of wanting to stop this happening, somehow — anyhow. I’ve received indirect approaches from more than one putative grouping with hopes of doing the same. Known and longstanding members of the Conservative Party, such as I, would be useful to any such movement, where Labour and Lib Dem refuseniks are two-a-penny."

"I think Tory former Remainers should — and I believe most will — stick with Theresa May. She’s going to need us when the headbangers attack. Brexit means Brexit, says Mrs May; and she’s right. The people have decided. Now comes a difficult and painstaking negotiation."

"We Tory Remain voters have had a little moan, a big sulk and a quiet tear. But now we must snap out of it, or there’s a terrible danger of slipping into a sort of Tsarist Russian émigré state of mind, dining with each other, dreaming of a return and taking secret pleasure in any setback our country may suffer.

I’m resolved not to scour each morning’s papers for news of a fall in sterling, or greet reports of businesses leaving Britain with a grimly satisfied “I told you so”. It’s corrosive. Real livelihoods, real people are at stake and we must wish always for the best. There’s a decent chance that after a few bumps along the way our economy will be fine. With heart as well as head we must wish only for this.

It’s my clear reading of the Conservative Party in the country, and of the mood of most of my former colleagues in the Commons, that Mrs May is thought to have turned out a strong choice for leader at a difficult time. Even among those Remain supporters who’ve had doubts about her there’s an overwhelming feeling she must be given a fair wind.

There is no appetite for troublemaking among what you might call Tory moderates, and though I myself long for a realignment at the centre of British politics, the lemons don’t line up this summer. Just when Labour looks ready to fall apart the Tories feel ready to hold together. Come-hithers from cross-party Remain revanchists will fall mostly on deaf ears.

But there’s a dark corner in that sunny picture. The headbangers on the Europhobic right are suspicious."

"Brexit means we leave the EU. It does not mean we turn sharply right in our attitudes to workers’ rights. It does not mean we may not choose to co-operate on a wide range of things, from fisheries to environmental protection to trading standards. It does not mean we quit the European Convention on Human Rights.

It need not even mean we’re unable to make special arrangements with our former partners (as we did with Ireland 94 years ago) on migration. Perhaps a compromise may be found, starting from the acceptance by our continental allies of what they so foolishly refused to consider before the referendum: that Britain cannot accept unlimited immigration.

We for our part may have to concede that unhindered access to the single market must involve common standards that we may have to accept, without the say we used to have in framing them.

It’s surely do-able but a delicate and tricky business, with the possibility of failure to get agreement always overhanging. That could result in our departure on no terms at all."

"Look at it this way, fellow Remainers: even if you think a second referendum possible, even if you believe a mood to think again may in time begin to run, this cannot be led by Remain voters railing against the popular will. It would have to come from Leave voters examining what’s on offer and thinking again.

So leave the nation to reflect. Leave Mrs May to construct the best deal available. Do nothing to undermine her. Give her all the help we can. Counsel the compromise she may need to recommend. And if she succeeds, as with skill and luck she might, let’s own, with her, a new, calm, businesslike way of living with the EU. "

You can read the whole article here.

What does BREXIT actually mean?

The vote has happened. Leave won. However much  many of us regret that, we have to accept the reality of it and find a way to move forward.

As the new Prime Minister has said "Brexit means Brexit" but some have asked "What does that mean?"

The answer is actually very simple[ -

BREXIT means that Britain will cease to be a member of the European Union.

That was what was on the ballot paper and it is what the Leave side have an electoral mandate for.


Brexit does NOT - necessarily - mean leaving the Single Market as well as the EU. That was not on the ballot paper and there were people actively campaigning for a leave vote who were also arguing that we could and should remain in the EEA.

Indeed, Remain campaigners promised us that Britain would continue to have access to the single market if we voted Leave because the remainder of the EU would be silly to put trade barriers in place between their companies and British markets.

Brexit does NOT - necessarily - mean much tighter immigration control. That was not on the ballot paper either.

It is reasonable to argue that the argument to "take back control" of our borders struck a chord with many people who believe - rightly or wrongly - that present levels of immigration are unsustainable and have had negative consequences for some of the least fortunate members of British society. It is reasonable to try to meet that concern. It is NOT reasonable to argue that the "Leave" vote provides any mandate to treat reducing immigration as an over-riding concern to be pursued at all costs.

The new government needs to negotiate the best deal it can for Britain. Then we need to make that agreement work.

We should negotiate hard for the best deal we can get. But let nobody assume that there will be no compromises or that we will get everything we want.

It would be ridiculous to expect that Britain will get everything that the most optimistic Leave campaigners promised. But by the same token, we should fight hard for a better deal than the most pessimistic Remain campaigners warned we would get. The truth is usually somewhere in between.

On human memory

Earlier today my wife and I were looking at a few cars which were on sale at various garages at West Cumbria.

The salesman at one garage asked about a car we had previously owned, "Didn't you used to have ..." to which we replied in the affirmative and asked how he knew.

He had sold us the vehicle concerned eleven years ago while working at a different dealership. The details matched too well for his recollection to be a coincidental error rather than an accurate memory.

Is not the human memory an extraordinary thing?

Saturday music slot: Bach's Harpsichord Concerto No.1 in D minor

Quotes of the day 23rd July 2016

"Things you never hear voters say part 1: I voted Tory because Labour just weren't left wing enough."

"Things you never hear voters say part 2: I'd vote Labour if they only had a leader who supported the IRA."

(Former Labour MP Tom Harris on twitter yesterday evening.)

Friday, July 22, 2016

Another modest proposal ...

Warning - for anyone who does not realise this from the title, this post contains irony.

Arguments about Europe have now brought down three consecutive Conservative Prime ministers.

First they brought down the greatest PM of the past fifty years, the women who came to power when Britain was the sick man of Europe and gave us back pride in our country.

Then they brought down the PM who still holds the record that he was re-elected with the largest vote ever cast for any British political party in a general election.

Last month they brought down the man who restored the Conservative brand, lead the country out of recession, made more gains than any Conservative leader in the party's history in the 2010 election and was the only PM for decades to increase both his share of the votes and seats in the 2015 election.

We need to put a stop to this

So as soon as Brexit is completed and we are no longer in the position where a certain amount of discussion of Europe is unavoidable, the constitution of the Conservative party should be amended.

All those wishing to stand as Conservative candidates in General Elections from 2020 onwards should be required to sign in their own blood a solemn oath that they will not rebel against the Conservative leader on the subject of Europe.

All associations should be required to appoint the physically largest and strongest association officer who is not himself or herself prone to banging on about Europe as the"European discussion suppression officer." This officer will have the responsibility for escorting anyone who mentions the European Union at a Conservative meeting out of the room, and sit them down in front of a computer or TV screen playing a continuous repeating loop of election declarations from the 1997 General election showing Labour or Lib/Dem gains at the expense of the Conservatives. The "European discussion suppression officer" will make them watch this until they agree to lie down in a darkened room until the wish to talk about the EU dies away.

We have to be cruel to be kind ...

Anger Management

I actually quite enjoy a friendly argument. However, this stops at the point where people start getting genuinely upset, throwing nasty insults and the people taking a different view which they appear to actually mean, and so on.

One of the things which concerned me about the Scottish Independence referendum, and to a lesser extent the debate about whether Britain should leave Europe, was that rather too many people on both sides got quite nasty about it.

And yes, it was definitely both sides. It is a cause of some continuing concern to me that some of my Remainer friends are convinced that nearly all the nastiness came from the Leave side, but although there certainly was some nastiness from some Leave supporters, some, not all, of those who wanted Britain to stay in the EU have been gratuitously insulting towards those who supported Leave. Exactly the same point is true the other way around.

It cannot be emphasised too strongly that there were good arguments on both sides. That the majority of people on both sides are not idiots. That most of those who voted to leave did so because they were concerned about genuine problems with the EU, not because they were racists and most of those who voted to remain did so not because they hate Britain -  they don't -  or because they wanted to run Britain down, but because they thought Britain's interests were best served by being part of the EU.

To be honest, though the bad tempered nature of debate about Brexit is only a symptom, not a cause of the fact that people seem to be getting angrier.

It may just be my age, but I think people in 2016 have a lot less to be angry about than they had fifty years ago and yet many people's tempers are much less under control.

There is an interesting article in today's Telegraph which is well worth a read, short-fuse Britain: why is everyone so angry?

I don't know what the solution is but I do think we would all do well to count our blessings and try a bit harder to see the other person's point of view.

Quote of the day 22nd July 2016

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Spot the difference

The Republican party of the USA - the party of Abraham Lincoln, and of Ronald Reagan - held their national convention this week.

They nominated Donald J Trump for the most important office in the world.

There was a time when that party knew how to nominate people who anyone around the world who believes in freedom knew they could depend on and be proud to have as an ally. Here is a reminder.

Senator Ben Sasse: "Americans Keep Our Word"

Donald J Trump does not speak for all Americans or even all republicans. United States Senator Ben Sasse, whom I have admired for some time following his excellent speech following a terrorist atrocity had this to say in response to the Donald's comments about NATO:

The coup in Turkey

All the world's major powers have condemned the coup attempt in Turkey and nearly everyone I know thinks they were right to do so.

You cannot build a modern democracy through the unlawful overthrow of an elected government.

However, almost all of the major powers have also called on Turkey's President Erdogan to act within the law in his response, and they were right to make that call too.

It is seriously suggested that the purge which Erdogan has been undertaking since the failed coup has seen more than eight thousands people arrested and fifty thousand sacked or suspended. Those arrested, sacked or suspended include judges, prosecutors, academics, teachers and civil servants as well as soldiers and policemen although there is little if any evidence that they had anything to do with the coup attempt.

According to the Guardian, the Turkish government has fired more than 15,000 employees at the education ministry, sacked 257 officials at the prime minister’s office and 492 clerics at the directorate for religious affairs. Additionally, more than 1,500 university deans were asked to resign. This followed the dismissals of nearly 8,800 policemen, and the arrest, dismissal or suspension of 6,000 soldiers, 2,700 judges and prosecutors, dozens of governors, and more than 100 generals.

Although it is entirely understandable that many members of the armed forces were initially detained while the government restored order in the immediate aftermath of the coup attempt, if the government has the least interest in responding with justice to the coup attempt they should proceed with caution and due process in recognition that some of those arrested may well be innocent.

I do not believe it is credible that, if all the governors, generals and members of the armed forces and security services who have been arrested, sacked or suspended had actually been involved in the coup attempt, it could have got as far as being launched but still failed.

An incompetently-run coup attempt involving that number of people would almost certainly have been betrayed and squashed before it even got off the ground. A competently run coup which had the support of that number of troops, governors and generals would undoubtedly have succeeded.

As The Economist has commented,

"The purge is so deep and so wide—affecting at least 60,000 people—that some compare it to America’s disastrous de-Baathification of Iraq. It goes far beyond the need to preserve the security of the state. Mr Erdogan conflates dissent with treachery; he is staging his own coup against Turkish pluralism. Unrestrained, he will lead his country to more conflict and chaos. And that, in turn, poses a serious danger to Turkey’s neighbours, to Europe and to the West."

"Handled more wisely, the failure of the coup might have been the dying kick of Turkey’s militarists. Mr Erdogan could have become the magnanimous unifier of a divided nation, unmuzzling the press, restarting peace talks with Kurds and building lasting, independent institutions. Instead he is falling into paranoid intolerance: more like the Arab despots he claims to despise than the democratic statesman he might have become."

Quote of the day 21st July 2016

"Don't exercise your freedom of speech until you have exercised your freedom of thought."

(Tim Fargo)

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Theresa May's first PMQs 2) - the vew from Copeland

For those of us in West Cumbria one interesting moment during Theresa May's first Prime Minister's Question time came with a question from the Labour MP for Copeland, Jamie Reed.

Anyone who reads this blog regularly will probably have worked out that I am not exactly Jamie Reed's greatest fan, and I usually avoid writing about him on the principle that if you have nothing good to say about someone it is best to say nothing. However, this week we have had the vote on the replacement submarines for Britain's nuclear deterrent, an issue that transcends party, and indeed Theresa May congratulated the 140 Labour MPs who voted for those replacement submarines (of whom Jamie was one) for putting country before party.

Mr Reed was called to ask a question and began by congratulating Theresa May on becoming Prime Minister: he also commended what she had done in making clear that those who suffer from diabetes (the MP for Copeland and the new PM both have the Type One form of this condition) should not be prevented from aspiring to or from holding even the most challenging of roles.

He then responded to the PMs words about the Trident renewal, thanking Mrs May for supporting the official Labour party position in support of the renewal of Britain's nuclear deterrent and adding what a pleasant change it was to hear that position supported from the despatch box.

(This was actually a dig at his own party leader: Jeremy Corbyn is opposed to Britain's independent nuclear deterrent, but he has not yet succeeded in reversing the pro-Trident position inherited from his predecessor.)

I did find it a little bit inconsistent that Jamie Reed managed almost in consecutive breaths to make the above comment which perfectly illustrated the chasm within the Labour party, and to accuse the Conservatives of being divided, but that, I suppose, is politics for you.

His final point was to refer to West Cumberland Hospital and the promises made by David Cameron to protect services at WCH. He then invited Theresa May to visit the constituency to see WCH and to reconfirm those promises.

For the avoidance of doubt, it is my opinion that David Cameron's promises about West Cumberland Hospital have so far been kept in that the government did indeed make millions available for the rebuild and refurbishment of the hospital and has given the local NHS clear instructions to retain district general hospital services in West Cumbria. However, I believe that it is important for all residents of West Cumbria that we work together on a cross-party basis to maintain support for WCH ands keep up pressure on the government, whatever party forms that government, to do so.

Theresa May noted that this was the first of what will probably be many invitations to her by MPs to visit their constituencies. She reiterated the government's support for the NHS

It may be worth adding her full reply which was as follows:

Theresa May The Prime Minister 
"The hon. Gentleman refers to divisions on the Conservative Benches. I have to say: which party was it that took three weeks to decide who its unity candidate should be? It is the Labour party that is divided.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his remarks on type 1 diabetes. There are many youngsters out there, from tiny tots to teenagers, living with type 1 diabetes. It is important that we send a message to them that their future is not limited: they can do whatever they want.
The hon. Gentleman is the first hon. Member at Prime Minister’s questions to invite me to his constituency. I will, of course, look very closely at all invitations I receive. It is important that decisions about the construct of local NHS services are taken at a local level by the NHS. He made a point about the agreement in the official policy of the Conservative party and the Labour party on Trident. I simply remind him that where we did disagree at the election was that the Conservative party agreed to put in the money that was necessary for the NHS. The Labour party refused to commit to that."

Theresa May's first PMQs 1) - the view from the left

I caught most of this afternoon's Prime Minister's Questions. I was very impressed with Theresa May's strong and confident performance, but of course, it was not me that she had to convince.

What was more interesting was how her first session of PMQs was seen on the left: the extracts below from a Guardian article giving various perspectives and which you can read in full here suggest that I am not the only one who thought the new Prime Minister had the best of the exchanges.

Extracts from Polly Toynbee's piece,

May has nothing to fear from the rabble across the floor

"The person Theresa May trounced most crushingly was on her own side – her predecessor. Serious and commanding, she showed how PMQs should be done – with forensic fact and deadly precision alongside flick-knife jabs."
"But nothing Theresa May said in her first PMQs was pronounced with such sincerity as her wish for these exchanges with Jeremy Corbyn to continue for a very long time. Of course she hopes he’ll stay. Though she had plentiful fun with Labour spending three weeks to choose a “unity” candidate, with months of infighting still to come."

"She had every right to revel in being a second Tory woman PM – bragging she got there through an “all woman shortlist” with no quotas. What does the Conservative party do for women? “It makes us prime minister!” The Labour MPs opposite her could only writhe, with so many more good women on their benches than sitting behind May – but no leader."

"But no, she has nothing to fear (yet) from the rabble across the floor with a leader whose colleagues mostly watched in glowering silence."

Ayesha Hazarika's piece:

As a Labour supporter, it was excruciating to witness

"Theresa May had a brutally brilliant PMQs debut. To be fair, first outings generally go well and she had an embarrassment of riches gifted to her by a Labour party falling apart at the seams. But sometimes PMQ open goals can be easier to flunk than people think. Yet May rose to the occasion and hit the back of the net again and again.

As a Labour supporter, it was excruciating to witness. She was confident, not referring to notes, and exuded cool authority – but most importantly showed she has the capacity to think on her feet and capitalise in an opportunity to land a punch.

And Jeremy Corbyn gave her plenty of those. He kept moving between topics and asking open questions, which just allowed her to trot out her top-line positive messages and then go on the attack.
The worst moment for Corbyn was when he asked an earnest question about job insecurity and bad bosses without any self-awareness. Tom Watson’s face showed he knew exactly what was coming. May resisted going for the obvious gag straight away, which made it all the more painful. Her riff about bad bosses who won’t listen to workers and exploit the rules was both funny and politically true, which is why it worked. It was clearly prepared (so hats off to her team) but she delivered it effectively, at the right moment and with a touch of theatrical flourish that she clearly enjoyed and the chamber loved.

May made a smart call to end her exchange with a bigger political message about how while Labour will spend the summer fighting each other, the Tories would crack on with running the country. It was a performance to make Tory MPs feel confident that they picked the right leader and Labour MPs feel the very opposite"

If that's what Theresa May's opponents wrote about her first Prime Minister's Question time, she cannot have done too badly ...

Record numbers in work

Good news today on the jobs figures ...

Unemployment is also at the lowest for more than ten years: the UK unemployment rate has fallen to 4.9%, the lowest since July 2005, according to official figures. from , the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

In the March-to-May period, the number of people in work rose by 176,000, with the employment rate remaining at a record high of 74.4%.

Earnings, not adjusted for inflation and excluding bonuses, rose by 2.2% compared with last year.
There were 23.19 million people working full-time, 401,000 more than for a year earlier.

"The labour market continued to strengthen in spring 2016, with record employment and the unemployment rate at its lowest since 2005," said ONS statistician Nick Palmer.

The unemployment total fell to 1.65 million in the March-to-May period, down 54,000 from the previous quarter

Of course, these figures cover the period BEFORE the UK vote to leave the European Union, let alone our actually leaving which will not happen for at least two years yet. If the effect of the vote to leave on markets and on company planning has an impact on employment in either direction we will not know for three months - and even then nobody will know for certain what would have happened.

So it is way too early for either side in the Brexit debate to start claiming to draw lessons from these figures.

Nevertheless it as a good thing that tens of thousands more people in Britain have the security of a job and a pay packet.

A piece of Cumbrian and British history faces the scrapyard

The former HMS Hermes, flagship of the British task force during the Falklands war, is facing conversion to a floating hotel or the scrapyard as she comes to the end of her useful naval life.

HMS Hermes was laid down in Barrow shortly before the end of World War II but with the reduction in forces immediately after the war it was not until 1959 that she was commissioned as a Royal Navy unit.

Following several decades in Royal Navy service she was sold to India and became the INS Viraat (Giant)

The North West Evening Mail reports that INS Viraat will embark on her final journey as an Indian navy warship this weekend when she sails for Lochi in southern India. She will be decommissioned later this year but her fate after that has not been decided.

The Indian ministry of defence has called for proposals from several coastal states to convert Viraat into a tourism pad but no concrete plans have been put forward.

So long summer

They were joking at the weekend that we would get a couple of days of glorious summer this week and that would be it.

OK, perhaps they were not entirely joking.

Two days of glorious sunshine in the North West on Monday and Tuesday came to a thunderous end overnight - still lightning and thunder in Whitehaven as I write.

I left an empty cup in the garden last night and it had more than an inch of rainwater in it at 8.30 am this morning.

Cockermouth school is closed today due to flood damage and Electricity NW says there are about a thousand homes without power in Carlisle.

Oh well, the sunshine was nice while it lasted ...

Quote of the day 20th July 2016

"If anyone in this room is considering mounting a leadership bid in future, Nick" (Boles) "and I will be on hand to tell you exactly how not to do it."

(Michael Gove at a dinner to thank supporters of his leadership campaign.)

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Does anyone know a Godwin's law compliant metaphor equivalent to the Reichstag Fire Decrees?

I have been watching events in a certain corner of the world with increasing concern, and also racking my brains for the most appropriate metaphor to express those concerns.

The government of the country concerned has been elected and re-elected several times in what are generally recognised as reasonably free and fair elections. I happen to believe that the government concerned started reasonably well but, for the last three years or so, has been going seriously off the rails. More importantly, a very large minority of the citizens of the country concerned also think that, but more importantly still, the majority do not and that government was recently re-elected.

A free and democratic society cannot be based on the military overthrow of elected governments: it appears that there has just been an attempt to overthrow the government in the country we are talking about and this has rightly been condemned by all the countries of the free world.

However, there is now a massive crackdown against tens of thousands of people accused of involvement in the attempted coup. I can certainly see why a lot of soldiers and police officers have been arrested or sacked, but the government has also moved against thousands of judges, prosecutors and academics. At least some, and probably thousands, of those arrested are almost certainly innocent, not least because if they had all really supported the coup it would either have been betrayed before it got remotely near to starting, or would have succeeded.

I have been racking my brains for an appropriate parallel which everyone has heard of for a gross over-reaction to an illegal action against a state.

Unfortunately the one my mind keeps coming back to is the Reichstag Fire Decrees, and I really don't want to appear to be comparing the present-day government we are thinking about to the Nazis.

It is a terrible government - people in this country who talk about David Cameron or even Gordon Brown as though either were some kind of real-world Lord Voldemort should have a close look at some of the countries at the other end of Europe to see what a really awful administration looks like. But there is no reason to believe they are planning to put millions of people into gas chambers or otherwise behave in ways which would make a Nazi comparison proportionate.

If the situation had arisen in my youth, when far more educated people were familiar with the classics, it would have been easy to find a metaphor from the latter days of the Roman Republic - in those days most educated people would have heard of the Catiline conspiracies and the role Cicero played in putting them down, so it would have been easy to create a metaphor about the over-reaction of some in Rome to the second Catiline conspiracy - or if you wanted to be more critical still, to the Proscriptions of Sulla.

Unfortunately knowledge of the events of the classical era two thousand years ago is not what it was.

Can anyone suggest a Godwin's Law compliant metaphor for over-reaction to an outrage against democracy which is proportionate and would be generally understood in the modern age?

Building a better Britain: The new chariman of the Conservative Party writes.

From Patrick McLoughlin:

During the past forty years I’ve had the privilege of serving as a Councillor, a Member of Parliament, a Minister and now, appointed by our Prime Minister, Chairman of the Conservative Party.

But for all that time I’ve also been an activist and a member of the Conservative family. Together it is people like us who have changed the party, won elections and delivered for the country.

Working with David Cameron, as many of us did, has left me proud of all that he achieved. And I know the next four years with Theresa May will be just as exciting.

This Party has taken me a long way. I’ve come from the coal mines of Cannock right up to the Cabinet. I’m so proud of what our Party stands for and to be appointed Chairman is an honour.
Please donate now to help us secure the future of the Conservative Party and help us build a country that works for everyone.

Patrick Mcloughlin - Conservative Party Chairman

Promoted by Alan Mabbutt on behalf of the Conservative Party, both at 4 Matthew Parker Street, London, SW1H 9HQ

The state of the Labour party in five images

The Telegraph has a cartoon today (topmost of the five images below) which compares the Labour party to Hency VIII's sunken warship Mary Rose. Which if these five images do you think best sums up today's Labour party? Of do you have any other suggestions?

Second quote of the day 19th July 2016

"My sister was not killed by a Muslim. We are Muslims; that man was not."

(Comment made by the brother of one of the victims of the terrorist attack in Nice)

Quote of the day 19th July 2016

"Labour's leadership election is a choice between a rock, a hard place, and a black hole."

(Christian May @ChristianJMay on twitter.)

Monday, July 18, 2016

MPs vote to renew Trident by 472 to 117

MPs have voted by a majority of 355 to develop a new generation of submarines to replace Britain's Trident fleet which provides a platform for the UK's independent nuclear deterrent.

As I posted earlier today I think it would have been very dangerous to have made any other decision, both because we are living in a dangerous world: we should not consider unilateral nuclear disarmament. At the very least it would be incredibly rash to give up our nuclear weapons other than as part of a multilateral deal which secured significant disarmament by other nations.

It would also have been incredibly rash for this country to undermine two of the three pillars which have supported the defence of the West in consecutive months - the Western nuclear umbrella and the EU - at a time when there is a real possibility that the USA might be about to elect a president who is lukewarm about NATO and thinks European states are not shouldering our fair share of our own defence.

I gather than the 472 MPs who voted to renew Trident included most if not all Conservatives and a majority - 140 - of Labour MPs.

Labour split three ways. The majority kept their manifesto promise and voted in the national interest by supporting the renewal of Trident. I very rarely praise Labour MPs but the defence of our country is too important to be partisan so all credit to them on this occasion.

Forty-Seven Labour MPs voted against the renewal of Trident - and thereby also voted against official Labour party policy and the manifesto they were elected on - including the Leader of the Labour party and the Shadow Chancellor.

Forty-one Labour MPs were absent or recorded a formal abstention including Labour's Shadow Foreign Secretary and Shadow Defence Secretary.

Frankly I have less time for this position than I have for that of the Corbynistas. This still puts them in breach of their manifesto promise but shows all the backbone of a disintegrating jellyfish.

More than half the votes against renewal of Trident came from SNP members of the Westminster parliament.

It is far from evident that this represents either the wishes or the interests of Scotland. I take all opinion polls with a bucketfull of salt these days but what evidence there is suggests that support for Trident among the people of Scotland is much stronger than it is among SNP politicians.

A major recent opinion poll summarised here found more Scots in favour or renewing Trident while other countries keep their nuclear weapons than to the contrary.

Another reminder to MPs as they vote on Trident renewal

This cartoon was published in 1983. The nuclear deterrent has now stopped World War III breaking out for seventy years.

Nobody can be certain what the world will look like in forty years' time. Those who back one-sided disarmament by Britain are gambling that no threat which the Independent British Nuclear deterrent might be required to deter against over the lifetime of the submarines which MPs are voting today whether to commission will be required between about 2028 and 2060.

Since the war peace in Europe has rested on three pillars - NATO, the nuclear deterrent, and the European Union. Last month British voters took the decision that the last of these is no longer helpful to Britain.

The decision that Britain will leave the EU was taken by a democratic majority and will be implemented, but even if you are one of the 52% who thought that was the right thing to do, it should still be recognised that this means that we have already given a pretty large kick to the stability of the continent this year, and in my opinion that's quite enough major shocks to the local order from one country for a decade or so.

For Britain to unilaterally decide not to provide a new generation of submarines to carry our nuclear deterrent would mean that our country has undermined in consecutive months two of the three pillars on which Europe's security has rested for decades at a time when the possible election of Donald J Trump, (who is no fan of NATO) poses an existential threat to the third.

Ah, you say, but Trump's never going to win - Hilary Clinton will beat him, surely?

I still think that's probable, but don't forget that Hillary is not the most popular of candidates, and all the people who say that Trump has no chance of winning were saying a year ago that he wouldn't get the Republican nomination. Just as many people on both sides thought that "Remain" would win the EU referendum. It is NEVER safe to take the result of a democratic vote for granted.

And if Trump. who already thinks that it's time Europeans paid more towards the cost of our defence and that we are expecting the USA to pick up too much of the tab, did become president, the sight of a major European player in NATO unilaterally disarming is just about the worst impression we could give him.

I have opposed the idea of unilateral nuclear disarmament for the whole of my adult life, but in the present context  - after the Brexit vote and in the face of the Trump candidacy - such a policy has the potential to be even more disastrous than it might have been in more normal times.  MPs have a heavy responsibility today and a vote against a new generation of submarines as a platform for Britain's nuclear deterrent would be an act of reckless irresponsibility.

Quote of the day 18th July 2016

As MPs vote on whether Britain should still have a modern nuclear deterrent, here is a reminder of what the last ruler of Russia who was as ruthless as Vladimir Putin - but rather more forthcoming - had to say on the subject of unilateral disarmament.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

As the Cameron/Osborne era comes to an end:

Last week David Cameron stepped down as PM following the Brexit vote, and George Osborne joined him on the back benches.

Up until the referendum they were the two most powerful men in Britain: it was historically unusual, but very much in Britain's interests, that they managed to keep a good relationship between PM and Chancellor for six years, far longer than is common. DC and George Osborne were a team, and a good one, who came to power while Britain was in the most dreadful mess and made significant strides towards cleaning it up.

Here are a few images showing some of their achievements. They increased the personal allowance and took millions of people out of paying tax - an idea which the Lib/Dems had first suggested but Conservatives implemented and continued to extend even after the Lib/Dems were no longer in the government.

Partly because of this and partly because the 50p top tax rate never actually brought in more money, they reduced the share of tax paid by the poor and increased the share of tax paid by the rich.

Because of a range of measures, including taking people in low paid jobs out of the income tax system while capping benefits, the Cameron/Osborne years saw people who took jobs much better rewarded for doing so. These incentives, plus millions of apprenticeships, helped the British economy to create jobs faster than under any recent government, getting a record proportion of the population into work

And these were real, full-time jobs

Britain is the only country which kept both the national promise to spend 2% of GDP on defence and 0.7% of GDP on foreign aid, which was also a Conservative election promise honoured. Britain has done more to help the poorest people in the world than any other country except America

And although it is always right to ask whether foreign aid is actually delivering benefits just as we would for money spent in the UK, the fact is that this aid did deliver real benefits

And they also found more money for the NHS.

No government is perfect. That of Cameron and Osborne made mistakes and, although we have made great strides towards reducing the ghastly mess they inherited, Britain has gone from being in a terrible economic mess to only a bad one: there is much more still to do.

Nevertheless David Cameron and George Osborne deserve to be remembered for this:

They started Britain on the road to recovery:

Under their leadership Britain played a positive role in the world

And they did far more to help everyone in Britain, including the poor and the least fortunate, , than anyone in any of the other parties or any of their critics in the left-wing media give them credit for.

Sunday music spot - Ko Ko's little list from the Mikado

As it became clear during the "Week of the long Stilettos" that our new Prime Minister had a rather longer "little list" of ministers to be sacked than anyone had expected, I thought I would put down the Lord High Executioner's "little list" song from the Mikado for this week's Sunday music spot.

While searching for a suitable clip of that song I found this English National Opera version, which up until this month had been bang up to date and is hysterically funny. (It does refer to David Cameron as the PM, has a reference to the England Rugby Squad which should also include our national football team, and doesn't mention Brexit. But it is still sufficiently up to date to be very funny.)

Unless you have totally missed everything which has been going on in British Society over the past year or have no sense of humour whatsoever, I strongly recommend that you watch this - I think it could bring a smile to the face even of a sacked cabinet minister, moderate Labour MP or a hardened "Remainer."

Remembering the victims of coup and terror

This morning at St James' church Whitehaven, the congregation stood in silence for two minutes before the service in memory of the victims of the Nice attack and the coup in Turkey and to pray for them.

The one thing we can say for certain at this stage about these to events is that both were terrible tragedies in which a lot of innocent people were murdered.

Quote of the day 17th July 2016

"All men are dangerous who care for only one thing."
(Gilbert K Chesterton, from "The Napoleon of Notting Hill")

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Respecting the dead in Nice and Turkey

A large number of innocent people have been killed in the past forty eight hours in two ghastly events: a massacre by a rogue truck driver in Nice, France which appears to have been an act of terrorism, and fighting in Turkey which appears to have been a failed coup d'état by a faction within the Turkish military.

It is too early to be confident about exactly what happened, and why, in either of these atrocities.

And much, much too early to start using either of these tragic events as arguments in our own domestic arguments here in Britain.

Anyone with the intelligence of the average ten-year-old could easily construct arguments on both sides of several topical arguments in the UK, from Brexit to Trident renewal, from either of these events.

But to do so while the bodies of those who have died are not even cold shows great disrespect to those victims, as well as being ludicrously premature when we have little or no idea who was really behind the coup attempt and whether the murderer of Nice actually had links to DA'ESH or was a lone wolf.

Chaos in Turkey: 90 dead and thousands arrested in apparent failed coup

It appears that an attempted military coup in Turkey has left large numbers of people dead, wounded and arrested after a night of violence.

The government of President Erdogan claims that a faction of the Turkish armed forces attempted to overthrow it late on Friday evening, with soldiers taking over some news outlets and tanks and helicopters blocking bridges.

The government has accused the armed forces of "Treason" and issued blood-curdling threats.

2,839 soldiers, including high-ranking officers, have been arrested after an attempted coup that is now over, says Turkey's PM Binali Yildirim.

The attempted coup was a "black stain on Turkish democracy", he added, with 161 civilians and police killed.

Those held include two army generals, Turkish media say.

Explosions and firing were heard in key cities on Friday night and thousands heeded a call by President Erdogan to rise up against the coup-plotters.

The authorities also said 104 suspected coup-plotters had also been killed, and perhaps most alarmingly of all, state media say that some 2,745 Turkish judges have also been dismissed in the wake of the coup attempt.

The Turkish government has accused a former ally of President Erdogan, exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen, of complicity in the attempted coup and demanded that the USA arrest and extradite him.

In response, Gülen rejected the conspiracy accusations in a rare interview with the Guardian and other reporters, and suggested that Erdoğan could have staged the coup. He also condemned the coup attempt, saying, “now that Turkey is on the path to democracy, it cannot turn back.”

Only two things are clear today about this coup - the first is that it is a disaster for Turkey, and although I consider that the government of President Erdogan is catastrophically bad for the country, it is nevertheless the elected government and had it been overthrown by force of arms that would have made a bad situation even worse.

The curse of the selective quote

I should have known that a person as intelligent as Michael Gove would be unlikely to have said something as bongo-brained stupid as his infamous quote on experts appears to be in the form in which it is usually quoted.

It turns out that - surprise surprise - this is a truncated quote which, although I still don't agree with it, is not nearly as daft when you see the whole thing in context.

Not quite up there with Mrs Thatcher's "No such thing as society" quote or Benjamin Franklin's "gain a little security at the price of a little liberty" quote, both of which, out of the proper context, come over as nearly the exact opposite of what was exactly being said.

(Here is what Mrs T actually said in context, and here is how Benjamin Franklin's quote on liberty vs security was misrepresented.)

Nor has Michael Gove been as badly misrepresented as Peter Mandelson was by those who left out the condition "as long as they pay their taxes" from his statement that he was intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich. This is what Mandy had to say about the way his words are often used:

Hat tip to John Rentoul of the Incdependent for explaining the context to what Gove actually said:

The rest of Rentoul's "mea culpa" article is available here.

University of Bristol Convocation elections

I am pleased and honoured, particularly as I thought looking at the CVs that every candidate standing had a lot to offer, to have been re-elected as a representative of the graduates of the University on Bristol University Court.

I would like to thank everyone who voted for me.

Results of the various contested elections can be seen here.

Quote of the day 16th July 2016

"Politics aside - I hope girls everywhere look at this photograph and believe nothing should be off limits for them."

(Nicola Sturgeon)

Friday, July 15, 2016

The new cabinet in one sentence

According to a pro-remain minister

"All the brexiteers are on planes and all the modernisers are on domestic policy."

Thoughts and prayers with the French people and especially those of Nice

There are no adequate words to express my revulsion at the sort of mentality of a person who can imagine that God wants them  to make an indiscriminate attack on civilian populations of men, women and children, regardless of whether the instrument used to kill is a bomb, forearm, edged weapon, or a truck driven into a crowd.

I am sure that all British people, irrespective of whether we voted to Leave or Remain in the EU, will be feeling shock and horror today at the ghastly events in Nice. Today we will all feel sympathy with the people of France.

Anyone with a healthy religious faith - by which I mean one based on love rather than hate and intend no insult to those who are not religious believers - will be praying for the people of France and all the innocent people hurt in Nice and their families.

Last night's events marked another dark day for civilisation. But the terrorists and those who promote their sick ideology cannot be allowed to triumph and will not do so.

Quote of the day 15th July 2016

"Teresa of Ávila’s reforms of the Carmelite movement came as a response to the crisis of the European Reformation, to what she called “a world in flames”.

They also took place as new possibilities of trade were being opened up beyond Europe, the other side of the Atlantic – her brother, fighting with the Spanish army, sent her some of the first potatoes from the New World.

Theresa of Downing Street has inherited a strangely similar set of challenges and opportunities. And no doubt it won’t be long before she also recalls Saint Teresa’s prayer:

“O my Lord, how true it is that those who work for you are paid in troubles.”

(Giles Fraser, writing in the Guardian about the new PM's background)

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Boris and Incitatus

The appointment of Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary has led several people to trot out the oldest of old chestnut stories as a means of comparison with an appointment which the speaker wishes to denigrate - the legend that the Roman Emperor Caligula considered appointing or actually did appoint his favourite racehorse Incitatus as a Senator or Consul.

This is actually one of the stock insults used in political discourse in Britain - if you enter the words "Caligula's horse" into the search field on the Hansard Website you find  forty results over the past forty years, most of them references by honourable members including Winston Churchill, Woodrow Wyatt, Tony Banks and Peter Lilley to this legend.

The people whose appointments were compared the alleged elevation of Incitatus ranged from Michael Heseltine to a Deputy Governor of the Bank of England - sadly I was unable to trace the details of whose such comparison  about which appointment was described in which newspaper as "rather unfair - to Caligula's horse."

I have been checking what is actually reported in one of the two sources for the story - Suetonius. Nobody can claim to be other than ignorant of the origins of our civilisation who does not own copies of three books about the ancient world - Herodotus' "The Histories" which is the oldest and the first known work of true history, Thucydides "History of the Peleponnesian War" which is  the most objective, and Suetonius's "The Twelve Caesars" which is the most entertaining.

Suetonius, writing about eighty years after the reign of Gaius Caligula, records the following about Incitatus:

"To prevent Incitatus, his favourite horse, from being disturbed he always picketed the neighbourhood with troops on the day before the races, ordering them to enforce absolute silence. Incitatus owned a marble stable, an ivory stall, purple blankets and a jewelled collar; also a house, a team of slaves and furniture - to provide suitable entertainment for guests whom Gaius invited in his name. It is said that he even planned to award Incitatus a consulship."

 So the older of the two original sources which record the story of Gaius Caligula's horse does not state that the horse was actually ever made a senator or consul, just that it was sometimes suggested that the Emperor had planned to do so.

I can certainly understand why the appointment of Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary has not been received with rapture in Brussels or other EU capitals and I gather that there has also been carefully restrained laughter in the United States and similar responses in some other capitals.

Boris is, however, the latest in a very long line of extremely clever English toffs who pretend to be buffoons. He spent much of his eight years as London Mayor - a job in which he had real achievements - building a reputation as a serious politician. That reputation was damaged in the last two months but now he has been trusted with high office he urgently needs to repair it.

I would remind those Remain supporters who have been complaining bitterly that all the people who led the "Leave Campaign" then fled the field and left others to pick up the pieces that Boris's appointment appears to be part of a three pronged strategy by Mrs May to make Leave supporters responsible for implementing Brexit.

If it proves impossible to deliver all the things which "Vote Leave" promised during the referendum campaign, the fact that three leaders of the Brexit campaign have been entrusted with the negotiations will make it much harder for Team Brexit to build a "stab in the back" myth and claim that the votes of those who backed Leave have been ignored or betrayed.

This strategy might or might not work, but it is almost certainly the best one Theresa May could have adopted. In this context the appointment of Boris as Foreign Secretary may not be as foolish as some people have suggested.

The New Cabinet

Thanks to John Rentoul of the Indy for this list. Rather more change than I expected although several of those leaving the government do so at their own request.
I've seen it suggested that this is the most far-reaching reshuffle ever by a government of the same party, with only four posts unchanged and a larger number of cabinet ministers leaving the government than in Harold MacMillan's "night of the long knives."
Particularly pleased to see the promotions of my old EAYC colleague James Brokenshire, of David Lidington, and of Damian Green. Also pleased to see Greg Clark's responsibilities expanded to include the energy brief - very impressed by his knowledge of the subject when he visited Copeland during my time as PPC and later Mayoral candidate. Personally sorry to see George Osborne and Nicky Morgan leave the government, but the captain needs to pick her own team.
PS - there were reports that Greg Hands had left the government but actually he is now Minister of State in Liam Fox's new ministry of International Trade. 

What a difference competition makes

After Andy Murray's second Wimbledon singles title, won at a time when no other Briton had managed to win even one Wimbledon singles title for decades and no British male tennis player had won a Grand Slam singles title for three quarters of a century before Murray's 2012 US Open win, it would not have occurred to me for a second that anyone in their right mind could deny him the description of being a great tennis player.

So I nearly fell off my chair when I saw the article in The Economist titled

Great Scot: in any other era Andy Murray would have been recognised as a tennis great."

"Who on earth suggests he isn't?" I asked myself.

Well, in terms of British tennis he certainly is, but supposedly in this day and age to be "great" you have to win rather more than the three Grand Slam titles which Andy Murray has so far achieved.

Really cannot say I agree with that, having observed while watching Wimbledon the sort of skill, consistency and determination required to win even one.

Where the article does have a point is that Murray, the best British player of the past century, has managed that eminence despite his career coinciding with those of three of the most talented men ever to pick up a tennis racket; Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have each won a dozen or more Grand Slam singles titles, a feat matched only by Pete Sampras among male players.

You wonder what Andy Murray's trophy cabinet would look like had his career come at a time when the level of competition was not quite so incredible.

And yet I cannot bring myself to regret that the level of skill displayed by rival players is so high. It might have been easier for Andy Murray had his opponents not been so good, but the quality of these players is great for the sport. That level of competition has probably inspired everyone to become better. And the fact that Andy Murray's grand slam wins have included victories against players as brilliant as Roger Federer makes them all the more truly special.


One of the negotiating aims which David Davis should push for as minister for Brexit must be to ensure that the interests of Gibraltar must be protected.

The people of the Rock have stood with us for centuries. We must not allow them to be bullied or their economy damaged.

There is a thought-provoking article on the potential effects of Brexit on Gibraltar here in The Economist magazine. The concerns in the article are legitimate, but we have to try to negotiate an exit deal which ensures that they do not materialise.

Cameron the job creator

It is interesting to compare the creation of jobs during David Cameron's premiership with that under his six predecessors. None presided over a faster rate of job creation.

Quote of the day 14th July 2016

"May as Prime Minister, Hammond as Chancellor. Still no word on Clarkson."

(Twitter, from an account called "Prince Charles" which I presume is a spoof account)

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Theresa May on making Britain a country which works for everyone

Theresa May has written the following letter which is very similar to her first speech as PM:

I have just been to Buckingham Palace, where Her Majesty the Queen has asked me to form a new Government. And I accepted. In David Cameron, I follow in the footsteps of a great, modern Prime Minister. Under David's leadership, the Government stabilised the economy, reduced the budget deficit, and helped more people into work than ever before. But David's true legacy is not about the economy, but about social justice.

From the introduction of same-sex marriage to taking people on low wages out of income tax altogether, David Cameron has led a One Nation Government, and it is in that spirit that I also plan to lead. Because not everybody knows this, but the full title of my party is the Conservative and Unionist Party. And that word 'Unionist' is very important to me. It means we believe in the Union - the precious, precious bond between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

But it means something else that is just as important. It means we believe in a union, not just between the nations of the United Kingdom, but between all of our citizens. Every one of us, whoever we are, and wherever we're from. That means fighting against the burning injustice that if you're born poor, you will die on average nine years earlier than others.

If you’re black, you’re treated more harshly by the criminal justice system than if you’re white. If you’re a white, working-class boy, you are less likely than anybody else in Britain to go to university. If you’re at a state school, you’re less likely to reach the top professions than if you are educated privately. If you’re a woman, you will earn less than a man. If you suffer from mental health problems, there's not enough help to hand. If you're young, you will find it harder than ever before to own your own home.

But the mission to make Britain a country that works for everyone means more than fighting these injustices. If you're from an ordinary, working-class family, life is much harder than many people in Westminster realise. You have a job but you don't always have job security. You have your own home, but you worry about paying the mortgage. You can just about manage, but you worry about the cost of living and getting your kids into a good school.

If you're one of those families, if you're just managing, I want to address you directly. I know you're working around the clock, I know you're doing your best, and I know that sometimes life can be a struggle. The Government I lead will be driven not by the interests of the privileged few, but by yours. We will do everything we can to give you more control over your lives. When we take the big calls, we'll think not of the powerful but you. When we pass new laws, we'll listen not to the mighty but to you. When it comes to taxes, we'll prioritise not the wealthy but you. When it comes to opportunity, we won't entrench the advantages of the fortunate few. We will do everything we can to help anybody, whatever your background, to go as far as your talents will take you.

We are living through an important moment in our country's history. Following the referendum, we face a time of great national change. And I know, because we're Great Britain, that we will rise to the challenge. As we leave the European Union, we will forge a bold, new, positive role for ourselves in the world. And we will make Britain a country that works not for a privileged few but for every one of us.

That will be the mission of the Government I lead, and together we will build a better Britain.
Thank you,

Theresa May
Prime Minister

Promoted by Alan Mabbutt on behalf of the Conservative Party, both at 4 Matthew Parker Street, London, SW1H 9HQ

Theresa May's first speech as Prime Minister

Dan Hannan's tribute to David Cameron

Dan's generous tribute to David Cameron on his last day as PM

Second quote of the day 13th July 2016

"As I once said, I was the future once."

(David Cameron's last words from the Despatch Box as Prime Minister a few moments ago.

This was a reference to a joke he made ten years ago at PMQs at the expense of the then Prime Minister Tony Blair, "He was the future once.")

Quote of the day 13th July 2016: a final quote from David Cameron as Prime Minister

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Only in Britain ...

Apparently last Wednesday a Cambridge Economics don and Remain supporter decided to protest against the result of the referendum by turning up naked to a meeting of the Economics Faculty which had been called to discuss teaching material and courses.

She had written "Brexit leaves Britain naked" on her breasts and stomach.

The part of this which I think could only happen in Britain is that all the other academics at the meeting simply stared straight ahead and somehow managed to go through the two hour meeting without anyone mentioning her state of dress, or rather lack of it.

Another don attending the meeting told the Telegraph

“This was a standard meeting about the teaching of economics and we moved away from her state of dress. We remained silent on that issue and managed to get through the agenda in the meeting.”

Gearge W Bush's tribute to the officers killed in Dallas

I am not a fan of George W Bush: it would be the height of double standards to hold Tony Blair entirely responsible for the catalogue of disastrous mistakes described in the Chilcot report without ascribing any share of the blame to the Bush administration.

However, Bush is not the village idiot which he is presented as being in the East Coast American media and therefore in the British and European media. While he has made catastrophic mistakes he has shown that he is also capable of acting as a true statesman: by comparison with Donald J Trump he is Themistocles, Cicero, George Washington and Winston Churchill rolled into one. This was never more true than in the words he spoke in tribute to the five police officers who were shot and killed in Dallas. Hat tip to Iain Martin for drawing these words to my attention here. This is what George W Bush had to say at the memorial for the fallen officers.

"Thank you all. Thank you, Senator. I, too, am really pleased that President Obama and Mrs. Obama have come down to Dallas. I also want to welcome Vice President and Dr. Biden. Mr. Mayor, Chief Brown, elected officials, members of the law enforcement community: Today the nation grieves. But those of us who love Dallas and call it home have had five deaths in the family. Laura and I see members of law enforcement every day. We count them as our friends. And we know, like for every other American, that their courage is our protection and shield.

We are proud of the men we mourn – and of the community that has rallied to honour them and support the wounded. Our mayor, our police chief, and our police department have been mighty inspirations to the rest of the nation.(Applause.) These slain officers were the best among us.

Lorne Ahrens, beloved husband to Detective Katrina Ahrens and father of two.

Michael Krol, caring son, brother, uncle, nephew, and friend.

Michael Smith, U.S. Army veteran, devoted husband, and father of two.

Brent Thompson, Marine Corps vet, recently married.

Patrick Zamarripa, US Navy Reserve combat veteran, proud father, and loyal Texas Rangers fan. (Applause.)

With their deaths, we have lost so much. We are grief-stricken, heartbroken, and forever grateful.

Every officer has accepted a calling that sets them apart. Most of us imagine, if the moment called for it, that we would risk our lives to protect a spouse or a child. Those wearing the uniform assume that risk for the safety of strangers. They and their families share the unspoken knowledge that each new day can bring new dangers. But none of us were prepared – or could be prepared – for an ambush by hatred and malice. The shock of this evil still has not faded.

At times, it seems like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together.
Argument turns too easily into animosity. Disagreement escalates too quickly into dehumanization. Too often we judge other groups by their worst examples, while judging ourselves by our best intentions. (Applause.) And this has strained our bonds of understanding and common purpose.
But Americans, I think, have a great advantage. To renew our unity, we only need to remember our values. We have never been held together by blood or background. We are bound by things of the spirit – by shared commitments to common ideals.

At our best, we practice empathy, imagining ourselves in the lives and circumstances of others. This is the bridge across our nation’s deepest divisions. And it is not merely a matter of tolerance, but of learning from the struggles and stories of our fellow citizens, and finding our better selves in the process.

At our best, we honor the image of God we see in one another. We recognize that we are brothers and sisters, sharing the same brief moment on earth, and owing each other the loyalty of our shared humanity.

At our best, we know we have one country, one future, one destiny. We do not want the unity of grief. Nor do we want the unity of fear. We want the unity of hope, affection, and high purpose.
We know that the kind of just, humane country we want to build – that we have seen in our best dreams – is made possible when men and women in uniform stand guard. At their best, when they are trained and trusted and accountable, they free us from fear.

The Apostle Paul said, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of strength and love and self-control.”

Those are the best responses to fear in the life of our country. And they are the code of the peace officer.

Today, all of us feel a sense of loss – but not equally. I’d like to conclude with a word to the families, the spouses, and especially the children of the fallen. Your loved one’s time with you was too short, and they did not get the chance to properly say goodbye. But they went where duty called. They defended us, even to the end. They finished well. We will not forget what they did for us.

Your loss is unfair. We cannot explain it. We can stand beside you and share your grief. And we can pray that God will comfort you with a hope deeper than sorrow and stronger than death. May God bless you."