So all the Tory bluster and bravado about Boris Johnson trouncing Labour in a general election is just a lot of hot air, it seems.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
Dictator Johnson has gone through with his threat and withdrawn the whip from 21 now-former Conservative MPs.
The list includes extremely high-profile names including Father of the House Ken Clarke and Philip Hammond, who was Chancellor of the Exchequer until only six weeks ago (at the time of writing).
Also out are recent Conservative leadership candidate Rory Stewart, Oliver Letwin, Dominic Grieve, David Gauke and Nicholas Soames (who is entirely forgettable apart from being Winston Churchill’s grandson).
And Guto Bebb, who said he would vote against the government, has also been ejected for going through with it.
Others include: Richard Benyon, Steve Brine, Alistair Burt, Greg Clark, Justine Greening, Sam Gyimah, Stephen Hammond, Richard Harrington, Margot James, Anne Milton, Caroline Nokes, Antoinette Sandbach and Ed Vaizey.
Boris Johnson started his first Parliamentary session as prime minister with 311 MPs and a majority of one. He ends it with just 289 MPs and the stigma of being the first PM since Pitt the Younger to lose his very first Parliamentary vote.
Jo Swinson: Was this how she looked when she was told her rejection of Jeremy Corbyn’s offer had gone down like the Titanic?
Tory rebel Dominic Grieve seems to have rowed back on his agreement to talk with Jeremy Corbyn about supporting his ‘no confidence’ plan to topple Boris Johnson.
In an email seen by the New Statesman, Grieve responded to someone critical of the Labour leader’s plan by stating: “I entirely agree. I am not about to facilitate Jeremy Corbyn’s arrival in Downing Street.”
So what, exactly, was he going to say, once he got into a negotiating chamber with the Labour leader?
The issues are clear: Either help Mr Corbyn stop BoJob’s plan for a “no deal” Brexit or be counted among its facilitators.
It is the same issue that is facing Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson. After being made to look a fool for dismissing Mr Corbyn’s plan outright yesterday, is she mature enough to swallow her wounded pride, admit she may have been mistaken, and come to the table?
Ms Lucas also suffered ridicule earlier this week, when he call for an all-female alternative cabinet attracted criticism for being both sexist and racist. She has showed the maturity necessary to realise that her idea was a mistake, reconsider, and come around to supporting Mr Corbyn.
Many others are appealing for Ms Swinson to do the same and help give Mr Corbyn the Parliamentary majority he needs.
Jonathan Lis, in The Guardian, has claimed that Ms Swinson has put herself in a difficult position that needs to be explained: “Swinson has always emphasised, rightly, that her party’s priority is to stop no deal. This could prove the only way to do so. If the Lib Dems really believe that a few months of a limited Corbyn government is worse than medicine shortages, it is their duty to say why.”
Can she? It seems doubtful.
Mr Lis, of the think tank British Influence, continued: “It is time for the Lib Dems, and indeed all remainers, to decide what they really want. A few months of a Corbyn government is not worse than infrastructural or economic collapse. If your most important goal is to stop no deal, you must take every conceivable step to do just that. Our politicians will not benefit from the catastrophe of a crash-out Brexit. But, far more importantly, neither will the British people.”
If Ms Swinson is indeed interested in stopping Brexit – and not just in stopping Jeremy Corbyn – then these issues should be on her mind.
Also on her mind should be the decisions of the people who have voted Liberal Democrat in recent months, on the understanding that they were supporting the ‘Party of Remain’. If she flat-out refuses an opportunity to stop Brexit, she will be betraying them. And it seems likely that Boris Johnson will call a general election immediately after his Brexit happens on October 31, if he gets that far. What will those voters do then?
The most likely choice for them is to abandon her – and her party.
Her knee-jerk reaction also induced people to remember the Liberal Democrats’ Parliamentary record – and the recollection is far from palatable:
My Lib Dem friends should read this – last time a Lib Dem leader refused to form a government with Labour at a moment of crisis because they didn’t like the Labour leader. And decided that Cameron & Osborne were so much better https://t.co/FeAznkGOzM… https://t.co/Zk8DlcPGz9
The game playing of Jo Swinson, hand in hand with Chuka Umunna and underhand with Tom Watson, has been exposed. Massive backfire on the LibDems trying to gain political advantage at the expense of the UK's well-being. pic.twitter.com/Wf9sfsJmic
Ms Swinson’s offer to support a ‘no confidence’ vote and interim government if it was led by Harriet Harman or Kenneth Clarke (she thought these were the longest-serving MPs of either gender in the House of Commons but in fact Dennis Skinner is the longest-serving male MP; he refused the title “Father of the House” so it went to the next-eligible candidate) has also been met with derision:
No Deal Swinson with the 14 MPs thinks she can tell the leader of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition that she will talk with him providing Harriet Harman is appointed interim leader.
Tell you what Jo, how about Layla Moran replaces you, or even a Primark mannequin, then we talk?
— Simon Patterson 🍊🍊🍊 #Antifa #BLM #GTTO (@SimonWPatterson) August 15, 2019
On the subject of principles: As I have been writing this, a Liberal Democrat source has told the Independent that the party has “no principled objection” to supporting Mr Corbyn as an interim prime minister.
So it seems even her own MPs won’t support Ms Swinson – if only now that they have seen the way the wind is blowing.
Will she make the smart choice, admit she spoke too soon, and get behind Mr Corbyn now?
The Queen: Will she have to use her constitutional role to rid us of Boris Johnson, if he refuses to honour the threatened vote of ‘no confidence’ over his ‘no deal’ Brexit.
That didn’t take long! The Conservative Party appears to be falling apart over Boris Johnson’s plan for a ‘no deal’ Brexit.
Some are siding with Dominic Grieve and threatening to support Jeremy Corbyn in an early vote of ‘no confidence’ against Mr Johnson if ‘no deal’ seems the most likely outcome when Parliament re-convenes in September.
But Dominic Cummings, BoJob’s senior advisor, has apparently claimed that Mr Johnson will simply ignore the result of such a vote if it goes against him.
This is unconstitutional – dictatorial, in fact.
If a confidence vote goes against Mr Johnson, Parliament will have 14 days to form an alternative government, according to the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, with a cross-party “government of national unity” strongly suggested.
But Mr Cummings apparently reckons BoJob would call a general election, framing it in populist terms as being “people v politicians”.
He wants to put us on a slippery slide towards fascism, it seems.
One of the so-called 14 early warning signs of fascism is the identification of enemies as a unifying cause. In this case, with the enemies being politicians opposing Mr Johnson, it seems he would set us on a path to totalitarianism.
The obsession with Brexit would tick off another entry on that list – “powerful and continuing nationalism”.
It has been suggested that Mr Johnson would not be required to step down after losing a confidence vote, and the timetable of anything that follows would be set by him.
But others have claimed that refusal to honour the result of such a vote would require the Queen to step in and dispense of his services herself.
That would be ironic – a man who is asserting the ‘divine right of kings’ to do what he wants being removed by the person who actually has that right.
Now, those of us who are familiar with Gabriel Pogrund had to wait until other news sources confirmed the story – Mr Pogrund is the hack who falsely accused me of Holocaust denial in a Sunday Times article last year; the paper was forced to issue a correction in January after a ruling by press regulator IPSO. I wouldn’t believe a word he wrote without corroboration.
Rachael Swindon’s opinion was quickly corroborated by other left-wing commentators.
Owen Jones wrote: “If this was a Labour MP, this would be front page news with talk of bullying, abuse and creeping totalitarianism.”
And Aaron Bastani tweeted: “There will be numerous deselections of Tories. The media doesn’t think it’s an issue though, because socialists aren’t involved.”
The opinions are borne out by the evidence.
Consider the way Angela Smith attacked a “cabal of hard-left members” after she lost a “no confidence” motion in her Penistone & Stocksbridge constituency – before jumping ship to help found TINGe – sorry – Chinge UK.
Chris Leslie lost a “no confidence” vote in Nottingham North CLP before also doing a bunk to TINGe/Chinge UK. He had been quoted as having described his critics as the “intolerant hard left”.
Much was made of these events by the mainstream news media but it seems Mr Grieve’s treatment by his local Conservatives deserves hardly a blink.
In fairness, some have suggested that a situation similar to the alleged hard-left takeovers of constituency Labour parties may be unfolding.
Here‘s Ben Bradshaw, Labour (!) MP for Exeter: “Full takeover of the Tory Party by the hard right ERG sect underway tonight. Dominic Grieve is a national hero, who has done more than anyone to try to save Britain from this #BrexitShambles disaster. #FinalSay#PeopleVote”
Sadly, I don’t think it is any more likely that the European Research Group (ERG) is taking over the Conservatives than it is that Communists are usurping Labour.
I say “sadly” because a hard-right Tory Party with the extremist policies of the Rees-Moggs of this world would be easier to sweep out of Westminster.
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Dominic Grieve QC MP says the government’s approach to Brexit could leave them open to a legal challenge [Image: PA].
Here’s another Tory who doesn’t approve of Boris Johnson’s boorish interventions in the already-practically-derailed Brexit process: Dominc Grieve, the former Attorney General.
On the subject of Johnson’s recent Brexit interventions, Grieve said: “The principle of cabinet responsibility is that you debate and discuss within government how you are going forward: you agree a line, and having agreed a line, you stick to it. What you can’t do is to agree a line in cabinet and then make public statements which are—or appear to be—at variance with what you’ve previously just agreed with your colleagues. That is not a proper approach.”
Slavery in the UK: This image was part of a campaign against it – but the Conservative Party wants to extend it to include you.
One has to marvel at the twisted logic of modern Conservatives; right before their last party conference in the run-up to the general election, they can normally be expected to be trying to bribe us all with tax cuts and benefits (maybe they will come later).
Instead they are promising to remove the safety net that keeps us free of exploitation by – what a surprise! – the Conservatives and their friends.
It’s not a new plan – Vox Politicalreported on the policy back in March last year, when Theresa May announced that they would scrap the Human Rights Act and withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights if they win the 2015 general election. They aren’t saying anything different now.
Back then, she claimed it would be “in the national interest”, and now Injustice Secretary Chris Grayling is saying more or less the same thing, dressing it up as an attempt to return power to the UK.
He told the Daily Telegraph: “Decisions like ‘do prisoners get the vote?’ or ‘can you send brutal murderers to prison for their whole lives?’ seem to be outside our control. I want our supreme court to be supreme. Decisions that affect this country should be taken in this country.”
He did not mention all the other rights you are likely to lose if the Conservatives are allowed to get away with this.
The European Convention on Human Rights was co-drafted by the UK – in fact by the Conservatives’ greatest Prime Minister, Winston Churchill – just after World War II. It states that nation states’ primary duty is to “refrain from unlawful killing”, to “investigate suspicious deaths” and to “prevent foreseeable loss of life”.
VP commented in March 2013 that “the Coalition government has been reneging on this obligation – wholesale – since it came into power”. Look at the Department for Work and Pensions’ work capability assessment for Employment and Support Allowance, and the thousands – possibly tens of thousands – of deaths related to it.
Article 4 of the Convention prohibits slavery, servitude and forced labour, so removing it would give the Tories free hand to impose their Mandatory Work Activity or Workfare schemes on us – despite the fact that these schemes are worse than useless at getting people into employment. The real reason for them is that they are a money-making scam to ensure the businesses involved support the Conservative Party.
Article 6 provides a detailed right to a fair trial, which is something Mr Grayling has been working hard to take away from you for a considerable period of time. It’s where you get the right to a public hearing before an independent and impartial tribunal within a reasonable time (the Coalition’s secret courts have removed this right already), and where the presumption of innocence until proven guilty is enshrined.
Article 8 provides a right to respect for another person’s “private and family life… home and… correspondence”. This has been violated, of course, by the Tory-led Coalition’s recent Surveillance Act.
Article 10 provides a right to freedom of expression, so removing it would allow the Tories to censor the Internet and remove blogs such as Vox Political, leaving only their own propaganda.
Article 11 protects the right to freedom of assembly and association, including the right to form trade unions. Obviously the Tories would love to ban the unions, but removing this would allow them the ability to ban anti-government demonstrations and it is probably why Boris Johnson bought his water cannons.
The Human Rights Act 1998 (brought in by the Labour Party) is the UK legislation that makes the European Convention binding on this country, meaning that breaches of it may be remedied in British courts, rather than the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. It is only appeals against the decisions of the British courts that go to Europe.
Grayling doesn’t like the idea of impartial foreigners ruling on whether his government’s politically-motivated human rights violations are legal.
That’s why he said; “I want our supreme court to be supreme. Decisions that affect this country should be taken in this country.” He wants absolute power over you.
Dominic Grieve, the former Attorney-General who got the sack during the summer, described the Tory attack on human rights as “incoherent”. It is widely believed to be one of the reasons he got the push.
The Tories are also determined to tie this policy in with anti-European Union rhetoric, even though the ECHR is nothing to do with the EU.
The Guardian‘s story on Grayling’s announcement includes a coda in which Savid Javid, our Sontaran* culture secretary, tried to reassure people that Britain could still prosper if it leaves the EU, despite the possible loss of hundreds of billions of pounds worth of trade deals (as reported in this blog previously).
But that’s another fact they’d rather you did not know. Misdirection is the only way forward for modern Conservatives.
Remember “There will be no top-down reorganisation of the NHS”?
*It’s a Doctor Who reference. Look up pictures of Javid and a Sontaran and you’ll spot the resemblance.
It’s a business matter – the business of bloodshed.
Despite the high-profile resignation of Baroness Warsi, despite growing unrest among his own backbenchers, despite public criticism over his government’s failure to support a UN inquiry into possible human rights breaches in Gaza and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, David Cameron remains resolute in his refusal to speak up against the Israeli government’s use of overwhelmingly superior firepower against Palestinian civilians who have been caught in the crossfire between Israel and Hamas terrorists.
His uncharacteristic silence has made him a laughing-stock in some quarters. The blogger Tom Pride, for example, took great pleasure in pointing out useful things that Cameron hasn’t been saying: “In a dramatic turnaround, Mr Cameron shocked political pundits after he blasted the Israeli Army for massacring civilians in Gaza by not quite saying something not very nice about it.
“And in a devastating speech which he was very nearly on the point of giving today, Cameron bordered on almost telling Israeli premier Benjamin Natanjahu to stop his naughty behaviour at once or face being told to shake hands and make up with the Palestinians.
“Mr Cameron also blasted the Israelis by getting pretty close to claiming there were “reasonable grounds” to believe that innocent civilians in Gaza – including children – had been targeted as a form of collective punishment, which he almost pointed out was not very nice and was even actually rather quite naughty if you think about it.”
The reason for his reticence? The Israelis are using British weapons, bought under contracts that are worth almost £8 billion every year. Cameron doesn’t want to put that kind of income at risk!
The latest development is that the Liberal Democrats have called for the government to suspend the export licences under which these weapons are shipped to Israel. It seems the intention is to put out a clear message that Britain will not tolerate its weapons being used against innocents (and we can debate the possible levels of hypocrisy in that later).
Downing Street has stated that the licences are already under review, with no new licences issued since the Israeli government opened up hostilities last month.
“Suspending export licences is not a decision we take lightly and it is right that we examine the facts fully. This is the approach being taken by the vast majority of countries,” the spokesman said, according to the BBC.
It seems more likely that nothing will be done and the government is hoping this affair will blow itself out before it can affect the balance of import/export payments.
Cameron has been attacked by many – including commenters on this blog – for the apparent failure of his moral compass where money is concerned, and there is evidence that criticising his policy is a bad career move for fellow Conservative Party members.
It seems only people outside the government are allowed to speak their mind. Look at Dominic Grieve, the former Attorney General who was ousted, possibly for criticising plans to limit Legal Aid to those who least deserve it. According to the BBC, he has been heard questioning whether Israel’s actions had been “reasonable, necessary and proportionate”.
Outside the Westminster bubble, high-profile names have been far less reserved about expressing an opinion. Remember when Roger Waters (formerly of Pink Floyd) compared the modern Israeli state with Nazi Germany last year? He was branded as an antisemite at the time.
But take a look at his words now, about Israeli treatment of the Palestinian people on the Gaza Strip: “The parallels with what went on in the 1930s in Geermany are so crushingly obvious… The Holocaust was brutal and disgusting beyond our imagination. We must never forget it. We must always remain vigilant. We must never stand by silent and indifferent to the sufferings of others, whatever their race, colour, ethnic background or religion. All human beings deserve the right to live equally under the law.
“I have nothing against Jews or Israelis, and I am not antisemitic. I deplore the policies of the Israeli government in the occupied territories and Gaza. They are immoral, inhuman and illegal. I will continue my non-violent protests as long as the government of Israel continues with these policies.”
When did we last have a Prime Minister with such principles?
Sacked: Dominic Grieve’s reservations about Legal Aid cuts put him at adds with the Coalition government; it seems his concern over a planned attack on human rights led to his sacking.
Now we know why former Attorney General Dominic Grieve got the sack – he is said to have opposed a forthcoming Conservative attack on the European Court of Human Rights, which he described as “incoherent”.
Coming in the wake of his much-voiced distaste for Chris Grayling’s cuts to Legal Aid, it seems this was the last straw for David Cameron, the Conservative Prime Minister who seems determined to destroy anything useful his party ever did.
The European Court of Human Rights was one such thing; Winston Churchill helped set it up after World War II and its founding principles were devised with a large amount of input from the British government. It is not part of the European Union, but is instead connected to the Council of Europe – an organisation with 47 member states.
It seems the Conservatives want to limit the European Court’s power over the UK, because they want Parliament to decide what constitutes a breach of human rights.
The opportunities for corruption are huge.
Considering the Conservative-led Coalition’s record, such corruption seems the only reason for the action currently being contemplated.
The plan could lead to the UK being expelled from the Council of Europe, and the BBC has reported that Mr Grieve had warned his colleagues that the idea was a plan for “a legal car crash with a built-in time delay”, an “incoherent” policy to remain a signatory to the European Convention of Human Rights but to refuse to recognise the rulings of the court which enforces it.
The United Kingdom helped to draft the European Convention on Human Rights, just after World War II. Under it, nation states’ primary duty is to “refrain from unlawful killing”, to “investigate suspicious deaths” and to “prevent foreseeable loss of life”.
The Department for Work and Pensions has been allowing the deaths of disabled people since 2010. Withdrawing from the European Convention and scrapping the Human Rights Act would mean this government would be able to sidestep any legal action to bring those responsible to justice.
Article 4 of the Convention prohibits slavery, servitude and forced labour – in other words, the government’s Mandatory Work Activity or Workfare schemes. The government has already faced legal action under this article, and has been defeated. It seems clear that the Tories want to avoid further embarrassment and inflict the maximum suffering on those who, through no fault of their own, do not have a job.
Article 6 provides a detailed right to a fair trial – which has been lost in the UK already, with laws allowing “secret courts” to hear evidence against defendants – which the defendants themselves are not permitted to know and at which they are not allowed to be present. The Legal Aid cuts which Mr Grieve opposed were also contrary to this right.
Article 8 provides a right to respect for one’s “private and family life, his home and his correspondence” – and of course the UK’s violation of this right has been renewed only this week, with the Data Retention Act that was passed undemocratically within a single day.
And so on. These are not the only infringements.
Clearly the Tories want to sideline the European Court so they never have to answer for their crimes against the British people.
Blind Justice: In Tory-led Britain, it’s also deaf. And ignorant. In fact, can it really be described as ‘justice’ at all?
A story has appeared on the BBC News website, stating that elite barristers have joined the chorus of opposition to the government’s plan to cut legal aid for criminal cases by almost a quarter.
It states that the Treasury Counsel, a group appointed by the Attorney General to prosecute the most serious crimes, has followed the lead of the Bar Council and the Law Society in saying the plan to cut £220 million from the annual £1 billion legal aid budget is unsustainable.
This is accurate, but fails to address the most damning indictment against Chris Grayling and the Ministry of Justice in this matter.
According to the Treasury Counsel’s written response: “HM Government has indicated that it rejects or can ignore much of the content of the thousands of Consultation Responses, …particularly as to the future effect on the supply and quality of criminal advocacy services from the proposed changes to legal aid funding.”
It continues: “Criminal legal aid remuneration is identified as an appropriate target for ‘reduction’: this is based on a ‘belief’. The belief is that ‘further efficiency and cost savings in criminal legal aid remuneration” are both possible and sustainable’.”
This means that Chris Grayling and his cronies have decided to ignore evidence-based opposition to their plans because of an unfounded, unquantifiable “belief” that cutting funding will not affect the quality of the legal advice available in criminal cases.
If this matter were itself a court case, it could be settled with a simple question: When has this ever been proved in the past?
Can you think of any time when cutting budgets has not harmed a service – or actually improved it? Of course not.
The response – written by people who are appointed by the Coalition Government’s own Attorney General, let’s not forget, and who may therefore be taken as broadly sympathetic to its aims, continues: “The Minister of State said, ‘This is a comprehensive package of reform, based on extensive consultation. I believe it offers value for the taxpayer, stability for the professions, and access to justice for all’… yet the Impact Assessment attached to the new Paper simply makes no attempt to evaluate or monetise the behavioural changes that will most certainly result from its proposals.
“The entirely obvious and predictable outcomes are lost quality and reduced supply. These are airbrushed in the Impact Assessment by repeated “steady state” assumptions. The behavioural changes are not then, uncertain. Neither will any steady state remain. They are, though, unpalatable; they will not improve the public interest.
“In a telling acknowledgment of this, the Ministry in its new consultation paper wholly abdicates its responsibility for this assessment by first making neutral assumptions and then asking the consultees what the impact will be. The Minister of State has lifted his telescope to his bad eye.”
The assessment of the Treasury Counsel is that cumulative changes since 1997, and a real terms cut of nearly half since 2007, mean Grayling’s proposals “will do significant harm to the operation of the criminal justice system… In particular, they will have both an adverse and disproportionate effect on the supply of such services by the acknowledged experts – the criminal Bar”.
Not only that, but the response says the cuts could be achieved in less harmful ways, such as “the proper working through of existing changes. Or, for example, in the proper letting and administration of government contracts for CJS services; court interpreters, custodians and other activities are telling examples of incompetent administration and wasting money – and these on services ancillary to the main process, that are provided by trading companies rather than professionally regulated people.”
In other words, allowing the market into the Criminal Justice Service (that’s the ‘CJS’ in the quotation) has lowered its quality and increased its cost.
The bottom line: “We consider that the proposed reductions, in whichever iteration, are unnecessary, have an effect much larger than claimed and will produce unsustainable results.” In terms of quality of service, it seems that it is the government’s proposals that are unaffordable.
The Attorney General himself, Dominic Grieve, indicated his own lack of enthusiasm for the proposals in a letter to the Bar Council in June. This accepted that opposition to the proposals cannot be explained away by self-interest, acknowledging that there is serious and principled opposition to the proposals which cannot be attributed to mere selfishness.
“Many… took the view that these proposals would cause the edifice to collapse,” he wrote, adding that he would continue to draw Grayling’s attention to the concerns that had been expressed to him.
It seems, considering the latest developments, that the Ministry of Justice not only has a bad eye but also a deaf ear.
What a shame its members are not speechless as well. For the sake of balance, here’s what a Ministry spokesperson had to say: “At around £2 billion a year we have one of the most expensive legal aid systems in the world and even after our changes would still have one of the most generous. We agree legal aid is a vital part of our justice system and that’s why we have to find efficiencies to ensure it remains sustainable and available to those most in need of a lawyer.
“We have engaged constructively and consistently with lawyers – including revising our proposals in response to their comments – and to allege we have not is re-writing history.”
Is it constructive for a government department to ignore evidence that it has specifically requested?
Is it consistent to run a consultation process, and then throw away the results because they don’t agree with ministers’ “belief”?
Of course not.
Grayling’s plans are ideologically-based and entirely unsupportable and should be laughed out of court.
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