Our man is back in GOVErnment*

Our, Surrey Heath MP, Rt Hon Michael Gove is back in government as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

I wondered, as probably might many others, what Boris Johnson might think or say about the appointment. *Me, being no wit, didn’t come up with this response. Boris Johnson did, see his tweet below,

Listening to Boris Johnson and Theresa May at a campaign rally

Yours truly got an invitation to attend a Conservative campaign rally, held in an empty warehouse/office building in the Slough Trading Estate.

My was I thankful it was held indoors, as queuing to get in was mostly in the rain – did take my brolly, for which I was thankful.

Boris was the warm-up speaker for Theresa May, and frequently referred to his script. Theresa May, impressively, spoke without a script, covering a lot of political issues. Good to be close-by both Boris and the PM, and to hear them speak. It’s easy to criticise politicians for what they say, and the way they say it – however, it takes no little courage and emotional energy to deliver a political speech with an audience so close to you. In the BBC’s Ben Wright photo of the rally, I’m in the front to the right, though not visible – wasn’t keen to be behind holding a placard, as wanted to see their faces.

I’ve not been as politically active at this election as I have in the past, so was pleased to get an invite. The rally was well organised with refreshments and biscuits available when inside the venue – pleased to say there were bourbon biscuits on offer – though not so many for those following me.

Boris gives his reasons for recommending Leave in the EU Referendum

In Boris Johnson’s column in Monday’s Daily Telegraph, he explains his reasoning for his intention to vote leave in the coming EU Referendum. You can read the complete article HERE.

Boris_Johnson_July_2015There is only one way to get the change we need, and that is to vote to go, because all EU history shows that they only really listen to a population when it says No. The fundamental problem remains: that they have an ideal that we do not share. They want to create a truly federal union, e pluribus unum, when most British people do not.

It is time to seek a new relationship, in which we manage to extricate ourselves from most of the supranational elements. We will hear a lot in the coming weeks about the risks of this option; the risk to the economy, the risk to the City of London, and so on; and though those risks cannot be entirely dismissed, I think they are likely to be exaggerated. We have heard this kind of thing before, about the decision to opt out of the euro, and the very opposite turned out to be the case…

This is the right moment to have a referendum, because as Europe changes, Britain is changing too. This is a truly great country that is now going places at extraordinary speed. We are the European, if not the world, leaders in so many sectors of the 21st-century economy; not just financial services, but business services, the media, biosciences, universities, the arts, technology of all kinds (of the 40 EU technology companies worth more than $1 billion, 17 are British); and we still have a dizzyingly fertile manufacturing sector.

Now is the time to spearhead the success of those products and services not just in Europe, but in growth markets beyond. This is a moment to be brave, to reach out – not to hug the skirts of Nurse in Brussels, and refer all decisions to someone else.

We have given so much to the world, in ideas and culture, but the most valuable British export and the one for which we are most famous is the one that is now increasingly in question: parliamentary democracy – the way the people express their power.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to vote for real change in Britain’s relations with Europe. This is the only opportunity we will ever have to show that we care about self-rule. A vote to Remain will be taken in Brussels as a green light for more federalism, and for the erosion of democracy.

In the next few weeks, the views of people like me will matter less and less, because the choice belongs to those who are really sovereign – the people of the UK. And in the matter of their own sovereignty the people, by definition, will get it right.

Some newly made up words are fun, others are simply annoying

An article in Atlas Obscura on How Do You Speak American? Mostly, Just Make Up Words, sort of lodged in the crevices of my mind.  I mentally filed it under new words and new ways of speaking, and additionally with happy enjoyment at new words, but also curmudgeonly annoyance at new words and abbreviations that I dislike, and of which I’ve no understanding.

It all came flooding back when I read this by Boris Johnson article in a Daily Telegraph on Monday this week,

“So I had truffled up some low-cost plane tickets to Turin, ….”

Converting an adjective ‘truffled’ into a verb, now that’s fun. But what’s the meaning of ICYMI?, as used in Twitter and short messages. I had to look it up. It means, ‘In Case You Missed It’. Ok.

More popular is converting nouns into verbs, not always successfully. Some verbalizing of nouns just jars, as with medalling and podiuming. Boris’s verb ‘to truffle’, seems perfect to me, such ‘he was truffling around for his keys’.

Lots of thoughts on constitutional change emerging

Search as I might I find a shortage of considered articles, thoughts, or ideas on constitutional change from those on the left. This surprises me, as I’ve always thought that socialism is about democratising everything.

The void is being filled by those in the middle and on the right. Here are some rattling good pieces published TODAY,

  • Paul Goodman has a must-read piece in Conservative Home on options for ‘English votes for English laws’ and an English Parliament.
  • Andrew Lansley, again in Conservative Home, dismisses the need for an English Parliament, and describes some details of parliamentary practice, such as Legislative Consent Motion (LCM). You’ll have to read the article to find out what this is. [I’ve yet to read it slowly to understand the ideas presented]
  • Even Boris Johnson, in the Daily Telegraph, in his typical humourous and forthright way presents ideas about ways of devolving power, while also wondering about Alex Salmond’s motives.

More ideas are welcome from all quarters.

The perfect London mayor for the occasion

It seems that any stage is perfect for Boris to dip into his mental bran tub of words and images. Look at him in the video in front of a large crowd last week, just prior to the opening of the London Olympics. Is there any other politician who could have conjured up the phrase,

“The excitement is growing so much I think the Geiger counter of Olympo-mania is going to go zoink off the scale.”


And Monday in the Daily Telegraph is of course Boris Johnson’s word-fest day in print. Today he names 20 reasons jolly good reasons to feel cheerful about the games. Here are some in which Boris’s opinion is spot on with the national mood.

7. The president of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge, made a truly excellent speech, in which he paid tribute to the role of Britain in either inventing or codifying the sports we celebrate at the Olympics. Only a small proportion of his speech was in French.

17. No single athlete was able to swank about having the honour of lighting the cauldron, since that went to a collection of young athletes. This was a typically brilliant and diplomatic decision by Seb Coe.

19. As I write these words there are semi-naked women playing beach volleyball in the middle of the Horse Guards Parade immortalised by Canaletto. They are glistening like wet otters and the water is plashing off the brims of the spectators’ sou’westers. The whole thing is magnificent and bonkers.

The ideal mayor for the occasion.

The Americanisation of the London Mayoral election

Having contributed a small amount to help Boris get elected as London Mayor, I get regular email updates from his and his team.

In January Boris informed me in an email that “The Evening Standard has today revealed that 2010 saw the lowest murder rate in London since 1978.”, and he’s kept me informed on the Olympics, the trains and more.

However, the election for Mayor of London isn’t until May 2012. The increase in emails and campaign websites is a sure sign that we’re copying the US model of beginning electioneering over a year out from the election. Not entirely sure that this is a good thing. It’s not only wearing on the campaign team but also supporters. But, hey, since it’s Boris, there’s bound to be some humour among the policy announcements.

In March Boris’s team told me about a new website – Not Ken Again – with the strap line “The web site that every Londoner should read … but Ken hopes you never will”.

Then this week Boris launched his super whizzy new activist Back Boris 2012 web site, adopting the tactics familiar to US elections – relentless promotion, elector involvement, online comment, and use of social media. Here’s what Boris’s email about this new website said,

“By signing up for your own personal Online Activist dashboard, you can connect directly with activists across the capital and share knowledge and ideas.

It also means you can feedback on-the-ground intelligence to the team at campaign HQ and will receive exclusive access to Activist-only updates and challenges.”

This is pioneering stuff for UK elections. Anything that increases involvement is politics at the ‘grass-roots’ level is a wholly good thing. It’s just that we’ll have to accept now that election campaigning doesn’t happen a matter of weeks or months before an election – it’s now in years.

I share Boris’s optimistic approach to 2011

I wish you all a happy, prosperous and peaceful New Year.

I’ve resisted the temptation to be platitudinous. Better to watch Boris Johnson’s new year message for its combination of optimism, energy, humour and ability not to mention one single negative thing. Good on you Boris.

I did like Boris’s uscripted quip about the upcoming Royal Wedding, which isn’t in the transcript,

“We’ve got the royal wedding. Unfortunately not taking place here in City Hall – a cut-price location I thought, but never mind – they’re going somewhere else.”

Question Time Analysis: Informality now the norm

Hmmm, should my BBC Question Time analysis become a regular feature. Seems so, as I think they are important to judge the mood of the audience may give a guide to the result of the forthcoming general election, although this week provided little in the way of enlightenment.

Before looking in detail, I’m surprised at the composition of the panel in this week’s programme. Surely both Labour and the LibDems have stronger speakers to offer to the programme. A LibDem baroness and a Labour lord few people will have recognised.

My conclusions:

  1. The Question Time audiences seem always to include overly partisan members, ever ready to chip in highly partisan comments. At some time I’d like to know the process the BBC adopt to select the audience.
  2. The cult of celebrity is now deeply ingrained into our society, where it also infects politics. Boris Johnson’s appearances on TV comedy shows must be the reason that one audience member, when speaking to Boris, referred to him by his first name. It also happened to Carol Vorderman. Familiarity is now the norm. The courtesies of old are now long gone, perhaps never to return, sadly.
  3. The biggest audience response was to a questioner requesting that policy become the staple of political exchange rather than sniping and accusation.

My summary, David Dimbleby’s was not at his best in the allocation of time for questions nor in the control of garrulous panelists. Question Time shouldn’t be about detailed forensic analysis, it’s about views on the popular topics of the day.

My panelists marks out of 10. Wilf Self: beardless this time, and a touch intellectually worthy for my taste – 7, Carol Vorderman: sparky and forthright, perhaps too much so, shouldn’t have committed so much to her notes – 7, Boris Johnson: a super-star performer allowed too much latitude by Dimbleby – 8; Baroness Williams: a talking head I’m thoroughly tired of – 5, Lord Adonis: rather characterless and precisely correct government spokesperson – 6. Of course, I expect you’ll disagree with my marks. 

Final point. How interesting that Boris Johnson outs David Dimbleby as being a past member of the now infamous Oxford University dining club – Bullingdon.