AFTER TWO days of voting Tory MPs have chosen two of their colleagues to go through to the next stage of the leadership election: a run-off when the party’s 160,000 members will choose the winner. They are Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary. Mr Johnson got more than half the votes with 160. Mr Hunt just pipped Michael Gove, the environment secretary, with 77 votes to 75.Boris Johnson’s ascent to the prime ministership now looks even more likely than it was a week ago. Mr Johnson’s biggest problem was always winning over his fellow Conservative MPs. He’s never been much of a team player: he has devoted more time to lining his own pockets (in one year he earned £540,000 from journalism and public speaking) than to campaigning for his colleagues. He’s also been a lacklust
The latest disasters to befall Change UK—Chuka Umunna’s decision to join the Liberal Democrats and the party’s decision to change its name for a third time—are a good excuse to reflect on the sad fate of one of the most ill-starred parties in British political history.It’s not that long since Change UK was poised to revolutionise British politics. There are lots of reasons why that never came to pass: Heidi Allen proved to be an incompetent acting head; the party failed to brand itself a “Remain party” but instead dithered around trying to reinvent the centre; it called itself Change but demanded that, as far as Europe was concerned, things stayed the same. But the biggest reason of all was the results of the council elections at the beginning of May, in which Change did not take part.
THE END-OF-AUSTERITY message has certainly got through to the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS). On June 10th the CPS launched “Britain Beyond Brexit”, a new collection of essays edited by George Freeman and written for the most part by fellow products of the 2010 intake of MPs. The CPS hired the biggest room in 1 George Street—a vast hall decked out with gilt paint and portraits of bearded Victorians—and provided the guests not just with decent sandwiches but also with champagne and cream-and-strawberry scones. Several leadership candidates, such as Sajid Javid and Dominic Raab, made speeches. Penny Mordaunt clucked around like a mother hen (I wonder if her decision to sit out this leadership election might prove that she’s the most sensible member of the class of 2010). Mr Freeman made
I WAS much impressed by Heidi Allen’s first speech when she left the Conservative Party to join the Independent Group, now known as the Change UK Party. How could the Conservative high command have ignored such a prodigious talent? But I’m afraid I was very much underwhelmed by her performance at a Beer and Brexit debate on May 14th, organised by King’s College, London. Ms Allen is now the acting leader of Change UK. But even as her job title has grown she seems to have shrunk as a politician. Gently interrogated by Anand Menon, the reigning Brexit guru at King’s, she produced a succession of bland and vague answers that suggested that she’s not capable of either rigorous thought or vigorous organisation. Ms Allen regurgitated a splattering of good-government platitudes about how Britai
I FINALLY GOT round to watching a few episodes of “Fleabag” to see what all the fuss is about. A few good scenes, I thought, and a magnificently disgusting character with a beard, but apart from that underwhelming. The breaking of conventions (addressing the camera, graphic sexual references, sleeping with a priest) was tediously conventional; the sentimentality, particularly about a pet hamster, was cloying….“Fleabag” and the “Fleabag”-related hype is nevertheless interesting for sociological reasons: it demonstrates the annexation of yet another area of British life by the self-worshipping upper-middle classes.Comedy used to be a pretty working-class affair. In the Victorian and Edwardian era the upper-classes (including Edward VII) went to music halls to listen to working-class songs
“GAME of Thrones”, which, in case you hadn’t noticed, returned for its eighth and final season this week, has already had a profound impact on the television industry (if you’re a TV producer with an idea for a multi-series drama your chances of getting a green light have skyrocketed). Let’s hope it has an equally profound impact on the history industry.Over the past few decades academics have focused on history from below—hence all those university seminars on bastardy in 15th-century Nottingham and hand-loom weavers in 18th-century Lincoln. They have done this for obvious intellectual reasons: Karl Marx’s contention that “the history of all hitherto existing societies is the history of class struggle” is undoubtedly a powerful insight. Added to this is a sociological reason: the vast
Our Britain columnist considers the best and the worst of MPs in a lively week in the House of Commons and beyond Source link
THE PARADOXES of Brexit multiply by the day. Brexit was supposed to allow Britain to take back control of its destiny. This week a British prime minister sat in a windowless room in Brussels while 27 European countries debated the country’s future in the council chamber (though Donald Tusk, the European Council’s president, did nip out halfway through the meeting to keep her updated). Brexit was supposed to restore the sovereignty of parliament. This week a British prime minister, borrowing the language of demagogues down the ages, berated MPs for not enacting the “will of the people”. Brexit was supposed to force the political class to venture out of its bubble and rediscover the rest of the country. The political class—journalists as well as politicians—is more navel-gazing than ever.
I SPENT MUCH of this week in the House of Commons press gallery not knowing whether to laugh or cry. Theresa May laying out the case for her deal on Tuesday, her voice so hoarse that it could hardly be heard and her body hunched, was a moment of both personal and national humiliation. The chaos on Wednesday, when Tory MPs were first told that they wouldn’t be whipped and then, at the last moment, that they would, sending them scurrying hither and thither, was a moment of high farce. And what are we to make of Thursday, when Stephen Barclay, the Brexit minister, spoke in favour of a government motion at the dispatch box and then marched off to vote against it?But before we lose faith in British democracy entirely it’s worth remembering two things. The first is that there were some fine s
THE AUGURIES for next week’s Brexit votes are not good, to put it mildly. The European Reform Group of hardline Eurosceptic MPs is divided into two camps: those who are willing to compromise with the prime minister on condition that they get everything they want; and those who are not willing to compromise even if they get everything they want with a cherry on top (one Leave-supporting politician I know tells me that about 30 of his colleagues are now clinically insane). The DUP, Northern Ireland’s largest party, is in high dudgeon—or perhaps I should say even higher dudgeon than usual—about being disrespected. The Labour Party shows no signs of putting country before party. So it looks as if we’re heading for yet further paralysis. The prime minister will suffer a heavy defeat in Tuesd