Michael Gove’s public meeting in Lightwater this evening

This evening our MP, Michael Gove, held a public meeting in All Saints’ Church Hall in Lightwater.

The hall was full, with standing room only at the sides of the hall and at the back. I estimate more than 250 people were in the audience. A sign of the good nature of Lightwater residents was that the Question and Answer session was well-mannered and respectful to almost all the questioners. As they say, there’s always one who gives a speech and not phrases a question.

Interestingly, Michael Gove asked the audience a number of questions, are you in favour of a second referendum? Overwhelming majority raised their hand to no, they were not in favour.

The second question was, how many would vote remain in a second referendum, only a tiny number of raised hands. Finally, how many would vote to leave in a second referendum. Again, an overwhelming majority in favour of leave.

Watching the farcical Prime Minister’s Questions today

It’s not my normal habit to watch Prime Minister’s Questions on TV. Not even sure why today of all days that I did watch.

What a day to choose to watch.

Theresa May’s words on the anniversary of the Grenfell Tower tragedy were well delivered, recovering some lost ground in her earlier failures on the subject. Jeremy Corbyn hit home with some choice comments on Boris Johnson’s leaked remarks, making it uncomfortable for both Mrs May and Boris.

The Prime Minister was on firmer ground explaining the contortions of Brexit voting and backstop arrangements, again committing the country to leaving the EU, single market, and customs union.

Then, absolute uproar. Ian Blackford MP, the SNP’s leader in Westminster, ensured his dismissal from the chamber by refusing to accept a ruling from the Speaker. On leaving the chamber, all of the SNP members followed him out of the chamber.

In my view the Speaker lost control of events. That he wasn’t able to respond to the developing situation without having the House of Commons clerk continually offer him advice, I thought showed a surprising lack of knowledge of procedure, about which he should know more than members.

Of the SNP’s tactics, a pretty amateurish debating strategy. You can only do this once, so it ought be on a phenomenally important point, and this one isn’t that. I have some sympathy with the SNP not getting a chance to speak in yesterday evening’s debates. But to come up with this pre-planned tactic at PMQ’s – to confect outrage at a perceived slight on the Scottish parliament – while then not recognising the offer of an almost immediate debate on their point by the Speaker, proves P. G Wodehouse’s famous quote,

It is never difficult to distinguish between a Scotsman with a grievance and a ray of sunshine.

Much blood and treasure spent preserving European freedom

Let’s get one thing clear to start with. Our past wars haven’t all been glorious. Think of the shameful Opium wars in China, and I’m sure you can cite more.

What you can’t ignore is that for over 200 years Britain has fought wars in Europe to rid them of tyrants of all sorts.

Why, therefore, are Belgium, The Netherlands, Austria, and others so keen to forget our contribution to preserve their freedoms, which has been at the cost of much blood and treasure on our part, not least in the 20th century.

Their attitude seems to be “punish the Brits”. Here’s an example today, in teasing UK cities to enter, spending time and money preparing a submission for the European Capital of Culture 2023 competition, which will be announced next week, and then this week to say their entries should be “immediately be discontinued” is shameful.

My estimate of the Conservatives majority is 100 plus

A week or more ago I had a bet with a chum that the Conservative majority would be over 100. He was hugely sceptical of this number.

I was electioneering even before my first vote in the general election of 1964. Only in this general election has my input been less.

In 1964 we were living in the Wrekin constituency [now the Telford constituency] in southern Shropshire. It returned Conservative William Yates in 1964 with a small majority. In the following election in 1966, it turned Labour with Gerald Fowler – a good candidate and MP. Being in a marginal constituency is fun [with majorities are in the mid 100’s]. Well, it is for party workers, when effective campaigning can be seen to make a difference. In the following 1970 general election, the constituency returned Conservative Anthony Trafford with a small majority.

After 1970 I lived in strongly Labour-held London constituencies, and then later in Wolverhampton South West, where the MP was Enoch Powell, who had a huge majority. Twasn’t till the late 1980’s that we moved to Surrey Heath.

This history is a round-about way of explaining my experience and how it helps me get to the 100 plus majority in this election. Of course, I could be miles out in my estimate. It’s just that I think Midlands constituencies frequently change political representation, and being mostly strongly in favour of Brexit I think they’ll change to Conservatives this time. The same, I believe, goes for constituencies in the North East.

The metropolitan cities of London, Manchester, and Liverpool is where the Labour votes reside, and where the Conservative messages gain no traction.

This is an unusual election – coming as a surprise, being short in duration, and initially focused on a single topic – Brexit. It hasn’t turned out like that, with terrorist incidents dramatically altering the focus, and I believe the election outcome. Another reason for my 100 plus prediction.

Assumptions from the Theresa May and Jean-Claude Junker dinner

A leaked account of the recent meeting of Theresa May and David Davis with Jean-Claude Juncker and Michel Barnier at 10 Downing Street has appeared in the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung [FAZ].

Read Jeremy Cliffe’s 30 item twitter thread for a synopsis of the points in the FAZ article. The account is not complimentary to Theresa May, but then it’s Juncker’s view in the leaked account.  Here’s my take,

  • J-C Juncker would have been buoyed up by the adoption of the Brexit negotiating position by the 27 EU member states. Thinking that the weight of 27 nations easily outweighed the UK. Correction: This agreement by the EU27 didn’t occur until after the dinner date.
  • Juncker represents the EU bureaucracy, which is minded to see self justifying complexity and lengthy negotiations.
  • A leak of a confidential meeting, and in such comprehensive detail, destroys trust between the parties.
  • That J-C Juncker briefed Angela Merkel soon after the meeting, such that Merkel used Juncker’s uncomplimentary view of the UK’s stance in  a speech the following day.
  • It’s in Germany where the power lies in the Brexit negotiations.
  • I can’t believe that countries like the Netherlands, and Denmark would be happy with the breakdown of trust so early in the negotiations – expect some payback to Juncker.
  • The EU bureaucracy needs money, so puts the ‘divorce’ bill as a priority.

I’m sure there are many more inferences to draw from the FAZ article. For me, the main ones are,

  • Expect negotiations to leak, especially from the EU
  • Likelihood of no deal has increased
  • May and the UK Brexit team need create a viable briefing strategy to counter loss of confidentiality
  • Appears May and her team have not given way on any negotiating points

The Daily Mail reports on the conflicts at the May / Juncker dinner date.

I’ve been thinking. Never a good idea

I’ve been pondering whether I should burden readers of this site with my observations on the General Election, and the progress of Brexit negotiations with the EU.

You’ve guessed, I feel sure, that the answer is Yes. I hope not to be pretentious, though can’t guarantee what I write will be insightful, just the impressions of an ordinary guy.

I’ll attempt, with the help of my dear wife, who’s a whizz on Excel, a Brexit negotiations dashboard. Better get working on it now, as negotiations will begin in earnest shortly.

I will, of course, leaven such opinions with local stuff, and quirky finds from the dear old internet.

PS: Not a photo of me.

The battle of wills is surely between Theresa May and Angela Merkel

Lots and lots is written daily interpreting the minutiae of government words on Brexit. I don’t want to add to it. My angle is about personalities. Perhaps I’ve missed it, but the media don’t seem to be focussing on the key battle between to two main combatants, Theresa May and Angela Merkel.

theresa_mayLets look at what each has said in the past two days. Firstly, Theresa May on the Sophy Ridge Show in Sunday, then what Angela Merkel said on Monday.

Sophy Ridge asking about prioritising control of immigration over membership of the single market, Theresa May said,

‘We are leaving. We are coming out. We are not going to be a member of the EU any longer.

‘So the question is what is the right relationship for the UK to have with the European Union when we are outside. We will be able to have control of our borders, control of our laws.’

Angela Merkel, speaking to the German Civil Service Association, said,

angela_merkel_2011“One cannot lead these [Brexit] negotiations based in the form of ‘cherry picking’. This would have fatal consequences for the remaining 27 EU states.”

“Britain is, for sure, an important partner with whom one would want to have good relations even after an exit from the EU.”

But Mrs Merkel said it was important to be clear, “that on the other hand, we are clear that, for example, access to the single market is only possible under the condition of adherence to the four basic principles. Otherwise one has to negotiate limits (of access).”

Angela Merkel will, surely, have been aware of what Theresa May said on Sunday. No obvious agreement there that I can see. From what we know about the two of them, there are remarkable similarities. Both are religious, lead centre-right political parties, have held similar positions in their respective parties and government, are of a similar age, have no children, and are from a non-metropolitan background,

So far, so similar. Both have succeeded in the male-dominated world of politics, so will both have exhibited grit and determination to succeed and survive. Perhaps it might be said that both show a stubbornness. On Brexit both Merkel and May have frequently repeated their positions, with neither varying very much from those positions.

There’ll be appointed European negotiators, though not yet exactly sure who and what. While the people in the negotiations will be important people, they’re not as important, in my opinion, as that of Merkel for the EU, and May for the UK.

An American magazine sees both sides of the High Court Brexit ruling

Much has been written about the ruling in the High Court that the government must seek a vote in Parliament prior to activating Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon. Heck, I’ve written about it HERE, pointing to the variety of opinions on the court’s judgement.

national-reviewIt’s the USA’s National Review magazine that offers two well argued interpretations – one against the ruling, the other for. A famously litigious country that is the USA, and one where Supreme Court judges interpret their constitution, it’s perhaps fitting that two American writers offer their perspective. Both deserve reading in full.

Tom Rogan writes in Brexit: British Judges Defy British People,

Whatever the outcome, this is a deep judicial strike at the democratically enacted will of the British people.

And concludes in his article,

The consequences of yesterday’s ruling are clear. The democratic authority of the British people, burnished by the Blitz and Magna Carta, is now in limbo. Forming cause from arrogance, the judiciary has acted to restrain British freedom. June’s referendum had a commonly understood purpose: to devolve the decision about the U.K.’s future in the EU to British citizens. The outcome of that decision was clear: Brexit. The Supreme Court must remember those whom the High Court has forgotten: its master, the British people.

Meanwhile Andrew Stuttaford, referencing Tom Rogan’s article in Brexit and the Judges, says,

I’m not convinced [at Tom Rogan’s deep judicial strike]. As regular readers around here will know, I have supported Brexit for quite some years. I still do. Nevertheless, I do not support the idea that the referendum result plunges the rest of the British constitution into suspended animation. If Britain is to leave the EU, it must do so according to the law of the land. The EU has done a great deal of damage to the UK’s constitution. It would be ironic if Brexit were to do a bit more.