The Silly Season

Every year, when the MPs go off to the seaside with their buckets and spades, we seem to enter a season when nothing much of importance happens, or at least is reported by the newspapers. Instead, the sorts of stories which might normally only make it on to page 15 find a place on the front page.  This year seems to be no exception.  We have had the reported death of ‘Grumpy Cat’, a cat famous on the net for looking grumpy.  The world mourned. There were the discoveries in New Zealand of 30 million year old fossils of 4 metre high emus and of penguins the height of a human. There was then the declaration by someone who has recently married an actress that they are going to have at most two children in order to minimise their impact on the environment. The proposed changes to the rest of their somewhat lavish lifestyle and their use of private jets seem not to have been reported.

The silliest story of this week (so far) is that prompted by the possible need, some time before 31st October, to put in place an alternative government following a vote of no confidence in the Boris government. The obvious candidate would be the leader of the opposition, but the alternative prime minister would himself or herself have to show that they could command a majority before the Queen would make the appointment.  Although a number of Conservative MPs would probably vote against Boris, it is unlikely that they would vote to install a Corbyn government. So then we would be looking for an alternative leader, one acceptable, on a temporary basis, both to most conservative MPs and enough MPs from the other parties to enable the Queen to do her party trick – to make him or her PM without a vote of the people, without a general election. 

Various names have been put forward, including Ken Clark, the Father of the House, someone who is generally respected across party lines.  He has considerable experience of government, is generally regarded as fairly moderate and to be a man of his word.  So then, despite his advanced years (which is why he’s the Father of the house), he would probably be a good choice.  He also happens to oppose Brexit, which could be useful, as the sole purpose of the temporary government would be to stop a no-deal Brexit.

But a different proposal has been made by Caroline Lucas MP.  She is the only Green member of parliament and a former leader of the Green Party.  She has called for the creation of a 10 member  cabinet with her as the Prime Minister.  The slightly  odd thing about the cabinet, apart from the fact that it would not have a snowball’s chance in hell of taking power, is that all the members would be women.  She is firmly of the opinion that women generally get on together much better than men and are able to arrive at compromises and find better solutions to problems much better than men.   She has written to other women politicians, not all MPs, but who occupy leading positions in the political world.

They include people such as the leader of Plaid Cymru at Westminster where her party has 4 seats out of 650 and which has only 10 seats out of 100 even in the Welsh Assembly.  And then there’s Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of the Scottish Government, someone renowned for her ability to bring about reconciliation, particularly with the English.  I heard Caroline Lucas being interviewed on Monday (by Emma Barnet). Could she point to any evidence to support her contention as to women’s particular qualities? Well, no, but that was her ‘experience in life’, although she accepted that not all women have the qualities she considers would mark out this wonderful cabinet.  Indeed, she accepts that there are probably millions of women who are no better than men in this sense.  So then we must assume that she has carefully assessed the particular women to whom she has written and found their psychological profiles to be ideal for the task.

A further slightly difficult point is that in proposing a government formed from only one section of the people, she has managed to ignore another.  No, not the men - although yes, obviously - but anyone who is not white.  All her proposed ministers are in fact white.  It may be of course that she has looked at such people and found that other ethnic groups do not have the necessary skills to produce reconciliation.  She has since apologised for the omission, saying that although she still supported her idea, she should have thought it through more carefully before making the proposal. 

Of course it could be that women of other ethnicities are mostly not yet in sufficiently senior positions in politics to be suitable for ministerial appointment.  It might be perhaps that those who are, such as Priti Pattel, the Home Secretary, a Brexiteer and supporter of capital punishment, and Diane Abbot, shadow home secretary, are not her political mates or capable of being reconciliatory.  But in a cabinet of 10 people, it is at least statistically possible that no-one, other than women who just happen to be white, actually fits the bill, in which case I wonder why she is now apologising for the omission after her in-depth analysis of those suitable.  Is she proposing to invite someone-else into the cabinet in order simply to give racial balance, rather than someone having the necessary skill-set?  In which event why not invite some men in order to give gender balance?  And has she thought about the LGBTQ community?  And if we don’t want to discriminate against the elderly, why not invite the Queen?  As I said, it is the Silly Season.

And then, having my breakfast here in France, I couldn’t believe that column inches were being given this morning to the suggestion by John Bolton, President Trump’s Security adviser that, as soon as Brexit is done, we could have a series of sector-based mini trade-deals, instead of waiting for years until an overall trade-deal is done with the USA.  All this to encourage us to take that last fateful step to abandon the EU.  John Bolton is so extreme in his transactional view of politics that even Trump finds him to be extreme.  But, just like Trump, Bolton does not believe in doing anything because of principle – except the principle that America must have the greater benefit from any deal done.  It is for this reason that they dislike the United Nations - it’s a supranational body which gives a voice to smaller, less powerful countries.  He dislikes the World Trade Organisation because it attempts to impose regulation on world trade - usually to the perceived disadvantage of the USA, the bully in the room.  He dislikes the EU because it represents a federation of states which together have sufficient economic clout to adversely influence American economic power and affect regulatory standards.  Of course, neither the other 27 states nor the UK individually would have any real counter-weight to that other federation of states, the United States of America.

So obviously the idea that we might fall for Mr Bolton’s blandishments is not to be taken seriously.  It’s just a story for the Silly Season, isn’t it? Please say yes...

Paul Buckingham

14 August 2019

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