The current political situation explained

Benjamin Timothy Blaine – Facebook post

“So, let me get this straight… the leader of the opposition campaigned to stay but secretly wanted to leave, so his party held a non-binding vote to shame him into resigning so someone else could lead the campaign to ignore the result of the non-binding referendum which many people now think was just angry people trying to shame politicians into seeing they’d all done nothing to help them.

Meanwhile, the man who campaigned to leave because he hoped losing would help him win the leadership of his party, accidentally won and ruined any chance of leading because the man who thought he couldn’t lose, did – but resigned before actually doing the thing the vote had been about. The man who’d always thought he’d lead next, campaigned so badly that everyone thought he was lying when he said the economy would crash – and he was, but it did, but he’s not resigned, but, like the man who lost and the man who won, also now can’t become leader. Which means the woman who quietly campaigned to stay but always said she wanted to leave is likely to become leader instead.

Which means she holds the same view as the leader of the opposition but for opposite reasons, but her party’s view of this view is the opposite of the opposition’s. And the opposition aren’t yet opposing anything because the leader isn’t listening to his party, who aren’t listening to the country, who aren’t listening to experts or possibly paying that much attention at all. However, none of their opponents actually want to be the one to do the thing that the vote was about, so there’s not yet anything actually on the table to oppose anyway. And if no one ever does do the thing that most people asked them to do, it will be undemocratic and if any one ever does do it, it will be awful.


Crime commissioner to go ahead with £400,000 office move

“Devon and Cornwall’s new police and crime commissioner is to go ahead with a £400,000 office move despite criticism.

Alison Hernandez says relocating her offices will save substantial sums of money within four years, which can be reinvested in front-line policing.

Devon and Cornwall Police’s Chief Constable, Shaun Sawyer has previously said the move “sends the wrong signal” financially.”

Put this in your diaries for 2020!

Hugo and Neil: between a rock and a hard place

Gove: Brexiter, the man who always said he didn’t want to be Prime Minister and wouldn’t be good at the job

Crabb: Remainer, the man who thinks homosexuality is a disease that can be cured and is married to a French woman

Liam Fox: Brexiter, the man who resigned because he took his flatmate “informal adviser” Adam Wherry on too many of his Ministry of Defence jaunts

Andrea Leadsom: Brexiter, a woman and someone who took advantage of offshore banking

Theresa May: Remainer, a woman who said there were no grounds for investigating widespread phone tapping by journalists

Tough one, boys!

Owl’s guess (note: Owl has no political nous or nose whatsoever) Hugo for Gove, Neil for Theresa. But not going to the bookies to put a bet on after the Boris Johnson shenanigans!

A Progressive Alliance?

Letter in Guardian from Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP:

“Is there any waking up from this nightmare, a glimmer of light,” asks Polly Toynbee, at the end of her searing examination of the pent-up “seething anti-Westminster wrath” which found its expression last week, and which helps to explain the victory of the leave campaign (Dismal, lifeless, spineless – Corbyn let us down again, 25 June).

If there is to be any hope for progressive politics, the answer has to be yes – and the solution lies in Toynbee’s own analysis. As she acknowledges, our electoral system is responsible for the fact that the concerns of vast numbers of people routinely go unheard, while parties fight for the swing voters of the centre ground. That’s precisely why we urgently need to build a progressive alliance for electoral reform.

Having lost control in Scotland, and with constituency boundary changes on the way, it must be increasingly clear to Labour that they cannot win an outright majority at the next election, no matter who their leader is. Instead of indulging in months of introspection and infighting, this is their opportunity to recognise that a more plural politics is in both their electoral and political interests. And with the growing likelihood of an early general election, the importance of progressive parties working together to prevent the formation of a Tory-Ukip-DUP government that would seek to enact an ultra-right Brexit scenario is ever more pressing.

It’s no surprise that leave’s message to “take back control” stuck. Many people do indeed feel powerless. Ensuring that everyone’s voice is heard in our political system is the first step towards healing the deep divisions that this referendum has revealed. I call on other progressive parties to join us in fighting to achieve that.

Caroline Lucas MP
Green, Brighton Pavilion

And/or an Independent Alliance?

The law of unintended consequences strikes yet again

“The fallout from last week’s vote to leave the European Union is rattling business and finance, far and wide. One aftershock is being felt at the European Investment Bank.

The EIB is owned by the 28 member states of the EU. The UK, alongside Germany, France and Italy, is among its largest shareholders, with about 16%.

The bank provides finance to a wide range of projects around Europe, with a particular focus on areas like infrastructure, social housing, renewable energy and education. It invested £5.6bn (6.7bn euros) in the UK last year and has ploughed £42bn (50bn euros) into the country over the last decade.
But after the Leave vote, there may already be a freeze descending on some new investment.

The good news is that the EIB says that its recent deals in the UK should proceed as planned. Those include funding to an automotive parts business in County Durham, to Swansea University, to housing associations in Northern Ireland and to an off-shore windfarm in Scotland.

But the EIB told Newsnight that the uncertainty created by the vote to leave the EU means that some UK projects, which previously would have stood a good chance, are now less likely to be approved.

There are reasons why the EIB might be cautious. It is unclear whether the UK could or would remain a shareholder after it leaves the EU. That might depend on the form of its relationship with the remaining 27 members. The situation is unprecedented and the EIB’s statue doesn’t contain any guidance or provisions for a shareholder leaving the EU.

Where does the money go? EIB lending to UK 2011-2015:

Energy – 28%
Transport – 25%
Water, sewerage, solid waste, urban development – 25%
Industry, services, agriculture – 7%
Education, health – 11%
Small and medium-scale projects – 4%

Source: EIB”

Brexit: The law of unintended consequences strikes again

“Brexit will be biggest ever task for Whitehall, even though staffing is at lowest level since 1940s after redundancies”

” … Huge swaths of policy and legislation will need to be reconsidered and decided upon by ministers, government and parliament. All of this is required whilst maintaining our public services and carrying out business as usual.

“Many of our members have serious concerns about how we will implement this at a time of political and economic uncertainty. Many of these questions cannot be answered right now.”

The civil service is now at its smallest size since the second world war, employing about 392,000 full-time staff, according to the latest figures. It represents an 18% drop since the coalition government came to power in 2010. The government’s spending review has meant that departments have drawn up further staff cuts.

Lord Kerslake, the former head of the civil service, has called on the government to begin a rethink of government cuts to staffing levels because of Brexit.

“If they’re going to get through this mammoth negotiation, they are going to have to increase resources for a period of time – and they ought logically to put a stop on haemorrhaging people,” Lord Kerslake told the publication Civil Service World.

Senior officials believe the untangling of 40 years of EU legislation as the biggest task the civil service has ever faced. This will include deciding on what to keep, amend and reject from EU-related laws and around 13,000 regulations.

At the same time, the British government will be negotiating any new deals with the EU and the rest of the world.

Oliver Letwin, the prime minister’s close associate, is expected to coordinate the unit’s work across Whitehall.

However, former head of the civil service Lord Turnbull told the Treasury select committee on Tuesday that Letwin was “completely unsuitable to do that job in the longer term” because “he has been a kind of consigliere to the prime minister”.

Hannah Williams, the programme director from the Institute for Government, said that the government has failed to explain how the work will be completed. “The announcement today gives no further detail of how this new unit will be run, the expertise it will draw from, or how it will coordinate Whitehall’s Brexit efforts,” she said.

Olly Robbins, the civil servant who is currently responsible for policy on immigration, has been given the job of heading the new Brexit unit.

Robbins, 40, was the UK’s deputy national security adviser to the cabinet office. He told the high court in 2013 that the Guardian’s Edward Snowden revelations could lead to “widespread loss of life”. The government has not yet released proof to back up his claims. Robbins, who is second permanent secretary at the Home Office, was also accused of giving “extremely unsatisfactory” answers on the funding of the Border Force when he appeared before the Home Affairs select committee in April.

Keith Vaz, committee chairman, had asked him repeatedly whether Charles Montgomery, Border Force director-general, had been told what his budget was to be for the year ahead.”

“There’s more to life than the economy”

Speaking of an ” explosion” in best-selling books about the natural world, judge of a nature prize Fiona Reynolds (ex-National Trust) says:

“Even in these three years there has been an absolute flood of books in which writers are talking about nature and its meaning, and not just in a superficial sense. These are profound books, about a deep relationship and about the deeply spiritual questions which confront us in society.” “[They show us that] there’s more to life than the economy, or foreign policy – these writers are articulating beautifully the ways in which the human spirit needs to connect with the world around us, and to respect the world around us.”

Shame our district council hasn’t got the message.

Post-Brexit devolution: an end to the “gift from Whitehall” model?

“… Last week’s referendum was a turning point for the devolution agenda. Just as Scotland’s near miss on independence sparked the current round of devolution deals, so the decision to Brexit could spark a new wave of demands for change: and this time, the calls for more local and regional autonomy are likely to be sharper and angrier.

Commentators are rushing to point out that an out-of-touch London elite has not listened to the cries of pain from suffering regional towns and cities. Any plan to address the underlying reasons for the Brexit vote must start by recognising that the British model of economic development is not working for most people. While the capital and wider south east have boomed, regional centres like Birmingham have fallen catastrophically behind. The idea that our economic model can be fixed by the national elite that broke it in the first place seems fanciful. Politically, it will be hard to ignore the need for economic reform.

The need to fix regional economies will be compounded by the deep social divisions that the referendum has painfully exposed. Look at the map of the Brexit vote and London sticks out like a sore thumb; an island of Remainers in a sea of Brexit. Some will say that the capital’s sense of anger and grievance is due payback for decades of ignoring the rest of the country. This attitude will hardly reduce the emotional shock that many Londoners currently feel, an experience that will be replicated in cities like Bristol, Cambridge, Liverpool and parts of Manchester. At the same time, the shires are clearly on manoeuvres to ensure that they translate their political power within the Conservative Party into a more generous approach to devolution to counties, ideally without the troublesome requirement for a mayor.

There are two ways to make devolution happen. For the past few years we have been following what might be termed the Whitehall gift model. Local leaders negotiate with George Osborne and, if he likes what he hears, he passes them down a package of new powers. It is a model that is unlikely to work very effectively in a post-referendum world. Mr Osborne is arguably already a lame duck chancellor. Parliament and the civil service face years of Brexit-related legislative congestion. Why would devolution deals be high on their agenda?

If we stick with the gift model, then devolution will stall. Greater Manchester might have enough momentum to carry on, but places like Merseyside and the West Midlands may find themselves struggling to win more powers. The counties may find it even harder to make progress, especially if they remain mired in complex debates about local government reorganisation.

But Scotland did not win its devolved settlement by waiting for Westminster’s beneficence. Its political class mobilised the voters and civil society to forge a consensus for change, before steadily campaigning to make it happen. The SNP went even further, demanding the right to declare independence unilaterally though their referendum last year. The decision to leave has unleashed a sense of grievance across the country that will be hard to put back in the bottle. Local leaders have an opportunity to channel that feeling in the direction of greater local autonomy. The difficult truth is that leaving the EU will not in itself do much to address grievances rooted in two generations of de-industrialisation, especially if the process of leaving brings a recession with it. Parliament may be preoccupied with Brexit, but the country as a whole will be worried about jobs.

The time for gifts may be over, but the moment for building a genuine movement for constitutional change might just be arriving.”

“Toothless Environment Agency is allowing the living world to be wrecked with impunity”

No chance for Sidford Fields then.

” … The Environment Agency no longer prosecutes even some of the most extreme pollution events. In 2013, a farmer in Somerset released what the agency called a “tsunami of slurry” into the Wellow Brook. One inspector said it was the worst pollution she had seen in 17 years. But the agency dithered for a year before striking a private agreement with the farmer, allowing him to avoid possible prosecution, criminal record, massive fine and court costs, by giving £5,000 to a local charity.

New rules imposed by the government means that such under-the-counter deals, which now have a name of their own – enforcement undertakings – are likely to become more common. They are a parody of justice: arbitrary, opaque and wide open to influence-peddling, special pleading and corruption.

I see the agency’s farcical investigation of the pollution incident I reported as strategic incompetence, designed to avoid conflict with powerful landowners. Were it to follow any other strategy, it would run into trouble with the government.

These problems are likely to become even more severe, when the new cuts the environment department has just agreed with the Treasury take effect. An analysis by the RSPB and the Wildlife Trusts reveals that, once the new reductions bite, the government’s spending on wildlife conservation, air quality and water pollution will have declined by nearly 80% in real terms since 2009-10.

It’s all up for grabs now: if you want to wreck the living world, the government is not going to stop you. Those who have power, agency, money or land can – metaphorically and literally – dump their crap on the rest of us.

Never mind that the government is now breaking European law left right and centre, spectacularly failing, for example, to ensure that all aquatic ecosystems are in good health by the end of this year, as it is supposed to do under the water framework directive. It no longer seems to care. It would rather use your tax money to pay fines to the European commission than enforce the law against polluters.

I’ve heard the same description of Liz Truss, the secretary of state for environment, who oversees the work of the Environment Agency, from several people over the past few months: “Worse than Owen Paterson”. At first, I refused to take it seriously. It’s the kind of statement that is usually employed as hyperbole, such as “somewhere to the right of Genghis Khan”, or “more deluded than Tony Blair”. But in this case, they aren’t joking. Preposterous as the notion of any environment secretary being worse than Paterson might seem, they mean it. …”

OK Hugo, who is your choice for PM? And Neil, what about you?

Will it be an old Etonian (Boris), a woman (May) a bloke from the working class (Crabbe) or Hunt – that chap you say you talked to a lot about our NHS but who doesn’t seem to have helped much?

How long will you sit on the fence? Or might you stand yourself? Or will you be campaigning to see which one will give you another ministerial post? Or the one offering you a peerage, perhaps?

Oh, the irony if you end up as just another common or garden constituency MP – who doesn’t have even a second home in it.

Owl feels your pain.

And Neil – now presumably so disliked by your Minister George Eustace for batting for the wrong side. And no hope of going back to the European Parliament!

Will the A303 now ever be completed … Will animal welfare continue to be protected by Brexiters? And forever destined to live with the fact that you were one of the 79 MPs who defied your party whip to force this Referendum.

But at least you do live in YOUR constituency.