Tag Archives: Nigel Lawson

Yes, Minister – but are concerns over civil service attitude to Brexit justified?

Lord Lawson of Blaby served as chancellor between 1983-89 [Image: BBC].

It depends on your priorities with regard to Europe.

Certainly the civil service may be uneasy about Brexit as it would make UK foreign policy objectives harder to achieve – especially if they really are as described by Sir Humphrey Appleby in the legendary sitcom Yes, Minister:

“The Civil Service was united in its desire to ensure the Common Market didn’t work. That’s why we went into it.”

“Britain has had the same foreign policy objective for at least the last 500 years – to create a disunited Europe.”

“Divide and rule. Why should we change now, when it’s worked so well?”

“We tried to break it up from the outside, but that didn’t work. Now that we’re on the inside, we can make a complete pig’s breakfast of the whole thing!”

Now we’re going back to being on the outside, and – no matter whether politicians and civil servants really do want to break up the EU or not – our foreign policy objectives will become much harder to achieve. EU nations will view us with distrust – the Quitters of Europe.

But it seems wrong – to This Writer – to suggest that the civil service would actively try to spoil Brexit. It doesn’t have to.

All anybody has to do is wait.

If events tick along according to ministers’ – and permanent secretaries’ – desires, then all well and good.

If not, then the nation will get a sobering lesson in what happens when we deliberately decide to have less influence in the world.

Either way, the civil service wins – because government will always need somebody to do the actual work.

Civil servants will “do their best to frustrate” Brexit, Lord Lawson has said in an interview with BBC Newsnight.

The former chancellor said Whitehall felt uneasy about Brexit because it represented radical change.

His remarks highlight unease in the cabinet at the civil service’s handling of Brexit.

Cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood responded by saying that the civil service prided itself on supporting the mandate of the government of the day.

Source: Civil servants want to ‘frustrate Brexit’


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Did Leave supporters know they voted for these four idiots to dictate what Brexit should be?

Frightful four: (Left to right) Iain Duncan Smith, John Redwood, Owen Paterson and Nigel Lawson [Composite: PA/Rex/Getty Images/Martin Argles].

The four right-wing extremists pictured above want to ensure that Brexit will only benefit the very rich and privileged.

For them, of course, that was the entire point of Brexit – taking democracy further away from the people and putting power firmly in the hands of the elite – their hands, in fact.

People who supported Leave have been instrumental in helping them manage this outcome.

Further developments are (currently) out of the hands of the public – it’s a debate among right-wing and hard right-wing politicians. We’ll have to put up with whatever scraps they decide to throw us after they’ve sorted out what they’re keeping for themselves.

So, Leave supporters – are you happy now?

Senior Conservative Brexiters have set new red lines for Theresa May in negotiations with the EU, significantly reducing her chances of getting a deal acceptable to the whole of her party.

The former cabinet ministers Iain Duncan Smith, Owen Paterson, Nigel Lawson and John Redwood have said it would be unacceptable for the European court of justice to have any jurisdiction over the UK during the planned two-year transition after Brexit.

Duncan Smith set out his objections in an article in the Sunday Telegraph in which he also said he particularly opposed a plan for the ECJ to have an ongoing role, beyond the transition, adjudicating on the rights of EU nationals in the UK.

Paterson, Lawson and Redwood, along with more than 30 other Brexiters, have signed a letter coordinated by the group Leave Means Leave listing seven conditions they say should apply before the UK makes any divorce payment to the EU.

Source: Tory Brexiters set new red lines over ECJ and free movement | Politics | The Guardian


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Why would an early budget stop the habitual Tory pre-general election bribefest?

'For the privileged few': Anything George Osborne offers to the poor in next year's Budget statement will be removed after a Conservative government is returned to office.

‘For the privileged few’: Anything George Osborne offers to the poor in next year’s Budget statement will be removed after a Conservative government is returned to office.

It is hard to understand why the Liberal Democrats seem to think bringing forward the 2015 Budget from March to February would stop George Osborne from using it to try to bribe gullible or selfish voters with tax giveaways.

The Conservatives habitually try to buy votes with measures that appear generous at the time, only to put the squeeze on the electorate in some new way after securing an election victory.

Look at Nigel Lawson’s announcement that the base rate of Income Tax would drop from 29 per cent to 27 per cent in 1987. The Tories won a landslide and then imposed the Poll Tax on us all. It was a disaster for the UK’s lowest-paid.

According to the BBC, the Tories are saying a “flashy pre-election Budget” would “weaken the credibility of their central message of economic revival and fiscal rectitude”.

Vox Political readers will probably agree that talk about “fiscal rectitude” is more likely to come from the rectUM, where Tories are concerned.

The Liberal Democrats don’t believe a word of it – and after more than four years in coalition with the Conservatives, they should know!

The BBC report claims that Tory backbenchers want to increase the level of income a person earns before they start paying the 40 per cent rate of income tax, or raise the threshold for employees’ national insurance by more than inflation, to lure lower-paid people into thinking the Conservatives have had a change of heart and the brutality inflicted on the poor since May 2010 is over. That would be a foolish notion!

The Lib Dems know they would not be able to stop the Tories doing this. But a February budget would allow around six weeks between the Budget statement and the start of the general election campaign, in which they would be able to separate themselves from the Tories and expose the motivation behind any faux generosity in the Chancellor’s speech.

Of course, some Lib Dems have been discussing the collapse of the Coalition before the Budget is announced. This would make the Conservatives a minority government and it seems unlikely that they would be able to pass their Budget if the Liberal Democrats did not support it.

Let’s hope that happens. The Affordable Housing Bill would be a good opportunity to ram in the wedge.

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Cameron’s candidate list is like his cabinet: full of empty suits

David Cameron and Tory election candidate Chris Davies: A suit full of hot air next to a suit full of nothing at all.

David Cameron and Tory election candidate Chris Davies: A suit full of hot air next to a suit full of nothing at all.

Here’s one to file under “missed opportunities”: David Cameron passed within seven miles of Vox Political central and we didn’t know about it.

He made a surprise visit to the Royal Welsh Show in Llanelwedd, Radnorshire, to talk about some agricultural scheme – but we don’t need to discuss that. Nor do we need to discuss the fact that the bronze bull statue in nearby Builth Wells town centre was found to have had its tail ripped off shortly after the visit; it would be wrong to suggest that the comedy Prime Minister was responsible but if he starts sporting a uniquely-shaped swagger stick, well, you read it here first.

We don’t even need to discuss the fact that Cameron arrived by helicopter, which is an exorbitantly expensive form of travel. Yr Obdt Srvt was watching a documentary about a Doctor Who serial made in 1969 and featuring a helicopter – just starting the rotors cost £70, which was a lot more money then than it is now! Next time you hear that there isn’t enough money around, bear in mind that this government always has the cash to hire out a pricey chopper!

No, Dear Reader – what was really shocking was the fact that Cameron allowed himself to be photographed with Chris Davies, the Tory Potential Parliamentary Candidate for Brecon and Radnorshire – a man who this blog has outed as having no ideas of his own, who parrots the party line from Conservative Central Headquarters and who cannot respond to a reasoned argument against the drivel that he reels off. Not only that but the new Secretary of State for Wales was also at the Showground – his name is Stephen Crabb and he is on record as saying that the role is “emptied and somewhat meaningless”.

Bearing this in mind, those who didn’t attend the event, but would like to recreate the spectacle of David Cameron flanked by Messrs Davies and Crabb, can simply fill a few children’s party balloons with hot air, arrange them in a roughly human shape, and put a suit on them – that’s Cameron – then add two more, empty, suits on either side.

Discussion of empty suits brings us inexorably to the dramatic cabinet reshuffle Cameron carried out last week, in which he replaced his team of tired but recognisable old fools with a gaggle of new fools nobody’s ever heard of. The whole situation is reminiscent of a routine that Ben Elton did back in 1990, when he was still a Leftie comedian.

Still topical: Ben Elton's 'cabinet reshuffle' routine from 1990.

Still topical: Ben Elton’s ‘cabinet reshuffle’ routine from 1990.

The parallel with today is so close that the routine may be paraphrased to fit the moment:

These days the cabinet minister is a seriously endangered species, constantly culled by the boss… How stands the team today? All the personalities have been de-teamed, and Mr Cameron was rather left with a rack full of empty suits. So he reshuffled Philip Hammond, a suit full of bugger-all from Defence across to the Foreign Office. Then he reshuffled Nicky Morgan, a skirt-suit full of bugger-all who had been at the Treasury for 13 whole weeks. She was reshuffled to Education and is also now Minister for Women and Equalities. A suit full of bugger-all called Wright, who nobody had heard of that morning, became Attorney General. This is the British cabinet we are dealing with; not the local tea club.

Now Nicky Morgan, come on, be honest, six months ago, who’d heard of her? Hardly anyone. Since then she’s been Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Education Secretary; nobody can say the girl hasn’t done well because she has. She reminds me of Jedward – everyone’s saying, ‘She may be rubbish but at least she’s trying!’

Who the hell is Jeremy Wright? He’s the Attorney General, that’s who. When he leaves home for work in the morning, even his wife doesn’t recognise him! ‘Bye bye darling – who the hell are you?’ … I confidently expect to see Keith Lemon elevated to cabinet status, with Gary Lineker becoming Chancellor of the Exchequer due to his amazing powers of prediction (“The Germans really fancy their chances, but I don’t see that”). He’ll be joined at the Treasury by financial wizard Jimmy Carr. Katie Hopkins takes over as Iain Duncan Smith so no change there.

140724cabinet3

This isn’t a party political thing. There have been lots of towering figures in cabinet before. Tebbit! Heseltine! … Lawson! You may not have liked them but at least you’d heard of them! These days, what have you got? The only reason a ‘dramatic’ reshuffle is ‘dramatic’ is because it takes so long to prise all their faces off the team leader’s backside, that’s why! They’re all stuck down there like limpets; they’re clinging on to the mother ship! If they all breathed in at once, they’d turn him inside-out.

That’s why they all speak so strangely – their tongues are all bruised and knotted from the team leader trying to untangle the top Tory tagliatelli flapping about behind.

Cabinet government is one of the safeguards of our precious democracy. It involves discussion, consensus, and it has produced great cabinets on both sides of the House. Churchill – the largest, perhaps the greatest political figure in the last century – a Tory, he was a constant thorn in the side of his boss, Baldwin. Wilson included Tony Benn, even though they were never friends, let’s face it. Heath employed Mrs Thatcher. They all understood that cabinet is a microcosm of democracy – but these days, it’s different. Nobody must dissent in cabinet. And nobodies are exactly what we’ve got.

There was more talent and personality in JLS – and at least they knew when to quit.

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The lies that smashed the unions and destroyed our coal industry

So now we know that Margaret Thatcher lied about the scale of her attack on the British mining industry.

She told the country that only 20 pits were to be closed, when in secret she and National Coal Board chief Ian Macgregor had planned to close no less than 75.

The revelation vindicates then-National Union of Mineworkers’ leader Arthur Scargill, who claimed at the time that there was a “secret hit-list” of more than 70 pits marked for closure.

Documents released under what used to be called the Thirty Year Rule show that under the plan, two-thirds of Welsh miners would become redundant, a third of those in Scotland, almost half of those in north east England, half in South Yorkshire and almost half in the South Midlands. The entire Kent coalfield would close.

The workforce was to be cut by about a third, from 202,000 to 138,000.

Thatcher went on to use the lie as an excuse to break the power of the trade unions, setting the scene for the long decline in employees’ rights that has brought us to the current sorry situation in which part-time work, zero-hours contracts and fake ‘self-employed’ status are robbing us of what few entitlements we have left.

She used the police as a political weapon to attack picket lines, sowing seeds of distrust that persist to this day. How many people who saw the scenes of carnage during the miners’ strike can honestly say they trust the police to uphold the law without fear or favour? Is it not more accurate to say they fear the police as agents of a ruling elite?

She destroyed Britain’s ability to provide fuel for our own power stations, leading us into dependence on foreign powers for our energy needs. It is this helplessness – caused by the policies of that Conservative Prime Minister – that has put so many British families into fuel poverty under the current Conservative Prime Minister, forcing them to choose between heating and eating.

In short, Margaret Thatcher owes compensation to a huge number of British people.

Some might consider it a lucky escape for her that she died last year and will avoid our wrath, but then again, considering her state of mind at the end it is unlikely that she would have recognised what it was.

Perhaps it will be possible for some of her victims to claim compensation from her estate; that will be a matter for them.

But other leading Conservatives and civil servants were in on the plot – and they should not be allowed to walk away unpunished. These include:

  • Nigel Lawson (Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time).
  • Norman Tebbit (Employment Secretary).
  • Sir Robert Armstrong (now Baron Armstrong of Ilminster, Secretary of the Cabinet in 1983). Armstrong has denied that there was a cover-up – an astonishing claim when documentation shows there was an agreement not to keep records of the secret meetings in which the plans were hatched and developed.
  • Peter Gregson (although he may also be dead; attempts to determine his status have turned up nothing).
  • Michael Scholar.

These are just the names on the document market ‘Secret’ meeting at No 10 on the BBC News report of the revelation.

They all knew about the lie and could all have told the truth but they did not.

They betrayed Britain.

Will they escape justice?

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What a fool: Cameron considers joining condemnation of his own government’s Queen’s speech

Cameron contrite while Farage laughs: The longer the Crime - sorry, Prime - Minister wavers over Europe, the more of a fool he makes himself seem.

Cameron contrite while Farage laughs: The longer the Crime – sorry, Prime – Minister wavers over Europe, the more of a fool he makes himself seem.

David Cameron seems determined to make his mark on the history books as the worst Prime Minister never to be elected in the United Kingdom.

Yesterday we learned that he is giving serious thought to supporting a Parliamentary vote that would condemn the Queen’s speech – that now-notoriously sparse proclamation of forthcoming legislation, spat out by Her Majesty like a rotting carcass last Wednesday – for failing to mention any law allowing an in-out referendum on Europe.

It’s as though he’s going out of his way to make a fool of himself.

Perhaps he is running scared of UKIP, a party that won the votes of just over 7.5 per cent of the British voting population in the local elections and is therefore – still – a considerable distance from forming any kind of threat to the Conservatives, who we should remember are the oldest, ugliest and nastiest political organisation in the country.

More likely, he’s running scared of his own backbenchers, who have become considerably more restless about Europe since the (perceived) rise of UKIP to prominence. It’s a false belief, based on the fact that the Eurosceptic party got 25 per cent of the vote in the locals. Total voter turnout was only 31 per cent, so a quarter of that means only 7.5+ per cent voted UKIP.

We should also remember that UKIP supporters were more likely to vote in this year’s elections as theirs was a vote of protest against the government, supporting the party they believe to represent that protest. Others were more likely to believe the locals were irrelevant in the larger scheme of things and stay at home.

However, Tories are not highly-regarded for their understanding and good stewardship of statistics – look at the example of Iain Duncan Smith – so it seems they’re putting the screws on Cameron.

This has been accentuated by calls to quit Europe from ex-heavyweights Nigel Lawson and Michael Portaloo, and the claim by Bore-us Johnson that leaving the EU will not harm the UK’s economy.

It’s as though they are going out of their way to make a fool of him.

You see, there are two very good reasons why Cameron should not support a vote that undermines the measures in the Queen’s speech:

Firstly: He wrote it. Even if he was not responsible for the exact wording, it is the document that outlines the legislative programme for the forthcoming year, to be followed by the government of which Cameron is the leader – and it follows, therefore, that he must have had the final say about it.

If he supports a vote against it, the public can conclude either that he is not a man of principle but one who does whatever he thinks will win him the support he needs, whether it is right or wrong, or that he is a brainless fool who didn’t pay enough attention to the content of the speech.

Secondly: No Parliament can bind the next. It is likely that ‘enabling’ legislation for a vote on EU membership was left out of the Queen’s speech for the very good reason that the vote will not take place during the lifetime of the current Parliament. Cameron has always stated that it would take place after an outright Conservative victory in 2015 – partly to blackmail Eurosceptic voters into supporting his party at that poll, but also because his Liberal Democrat Coalition partners won’t support a vote while they are a part of the government.

Finally, it seems Cameron should have remembered the coda at the end of the speech. It said, “Other measures will be laid before you.”

In other words, provision had been made, already, for legislation that was not included in the speech. He didn’t have to say or do anything.

It’s as though he’s going out of his way to make a fool of himself.

Postscript: New information has been passed to me which casts the situation in a whole new light.

The parliament.org website includes a page about procedures in a hung parliament such as, for example, that under which we are all currently living.

It states: “The first parliamentary test of a minority or coalition government is the vote on an amendment to the Queen’s Speech.  If the Queen’s Speech is amended, the Prime Minister must resign.”

Let’s all hope that this amendment is won and Cameron supports it. Because, guess what?

It’s as though he’s going out of his way to make a fool of himself!

Post-postscript: According to the New Statesman, the Commons Information Office reckons a defeat on the Queen’s speech no longer constitutes a vote of no confidence in the government. That Bill offered a definition of a ‘no confidence’ vote for the first time, meaning that a defeat on the planned legislative programme or, say, the Budget, are no longer regarded as votes of no confidence in the government.

That seems wrong to me; if Parliament doesn’t support the planned legislative programme (or spending plans, in the case of the Budget) then it follows logically that Parliament does not have confidence in the government that devised it.

Whatever happens, it seems this Conservative Prime Minister is happy not to conserve an ancient Parliamentary convention, if it doesn’t suit him.