BRITAIN; ‘Vassal state’… ‘a betrayal’… Brexiteers react to May’s deal

Leading Brexiteers have launched ferocious attacks on Theresa May’s reported Brexit deal, accusing her of “a betrayal of the Union” and calling for a Cabinet mutiny.

|MATT WITHERS, THE NEW EUROPEAN|

AIWA! NO!|A deal has been reached by negotiators in Brussels and go before a crunch Cabinet meeting tomorrow.But the hardline Leavers in May’s party have already pounced on her before it has even been published, urging Cabinet members to reject it.

Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson said he would vote against the deal, claiming it was “vassal state stuff” and urged the Cabinet to “chuck it out”.

He said he expected the deal to be “pretty much” what had been agreed a few week ago “we are going to stay in the customs union on this deal, we are going to stay effectively in large parts of the single market and that means it’s vassal state stuff”.

He told the BBC: “For the first time in a thousand years, this place, this Parliament, will not have a say over the laws that govern this country. It is a quite incredible state of affairs.”

He added “I don’t see how you can support it from a democratic point of view, I don’t see how unionists can support it, and I don’t see how you can support it if you believe in the economic and political freedom of this country.”

He claimed the deal was “making a nonsense of Brexit so I hope the Cabinet will do the right thing and I hope they chuck it out”.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the pro-hard Brexit European Research Group of Tory MPs, said the reported deal represented a betrayal of Theresa May’s promise to maintain the integrity of the United Kingdom.

“White flags have gone up all over Whitehall. It is a betrayal of the Union,” he said.

“If what we have heard is true, this fails to meet the Conservative Party manifesto and it fails to meet many of the commitments that the prime minister makes.

“It would keep us in the customs union and de facto the single market. This is the vassal state.

“It is a failure of the government’s negotiating position, it is a failure to deliver on Brexit and it is potentially dividing up the United Kingdom.

“It is very hard to see any reason why the Cabinet should support Northern Ireland being ruled from Dublin.”

Former party leader and Brexit hardliner Iain Duncan Smith warned that if reports of the deal’s contents were true the Government was “breaking their own agreed position and will be bringing back something that is untenable”.

He added that “if the Cabinet agrees it, the party certainly won’t”.

Asked if the Government’s days were numbered he said: “If this is the case almost certainly, yes.

“Because they are in real trouble if they bring back something that is unacceptable to the party.

“The Government puts itself in an impossible position, because they are trying to promote something they themselves said they would never promote. And that makes it impossible.

“How can you ask the party to vote for something which you yourself as prime minister and the Cabinet said they would never ever allow?”

UK Conservative Eurosceptics give Theresa May ‘Canada or quit’ ultimatum if her Brexit plans fail

Exclusive: Senior figures in the party say it is the ‘only credible way’ she could stay in post if her Chequers plans fail.

Image result for brexit
Conservative Eurosceptics give Theresa May ‘Canada or quit’ ultimatum if her Brexit plans fail ©INDEPENDENT

Joe Watts, Political Editor| @JoeWatts_|AIWA! NO|Conservative Brexiteers are giving Theresa May an ultimatum, that if her negotiating strategy fails she must accept plans for a Canada-style trade deal or face a leadership challenge.

Senior figures say it would be impossible for her to try to further negotiate on her Chequers proposals if they are rejected by parliament or the EU.

Instead, she would be told only full acceptance of the kind of arrangement put forward by Boris JohnsonDavid DavisJacob Rees-Mogg and others would allow her to avoid a Tory vote of no confidence.

The prime minister will meet her full cabinet on Tuesday and is expected to present further tweaks to her proposals relating to future customs arrangements and EU regulation in a bid to secure a deal with Brussels.

There is also increasing speculation that Ms May could try to stay on in her job, either to renegotiate if initial talks fail to bear fruit, or to fully deliver Brexit if a deal is reached.

It follows a Conservative conference that ended on a positive note as the prime minister sought to refocus her party on domestic policy, but the agenda was always going to shift back to Brexit with another critical European summit days away.

A senior Conservative figure told The Independent: “The prime minister has three potential courses of action if her deal is voted down by parliament or rejected in Brussels.

“In that case she may be tempted to try to return to the negotiating table and develop Chequers with further concessions, or alternatively go down the route of joining the EEA. Neither of those are going to be acceptable to the party if Chequers has already been rejected.

“If she does try to go there, colleagues are going to push back hard and given what would represent the collapse of her strategy, it will be her whole leadership in question.”

The individual explained that Ms May would only be allowed to avoid some kind of challenge if she agrees to pursuing the kind of Canada-style free trade deal that European Council president Donald Tusk said is on offer this week.

If she does try to go there, colleagues are going to push back hard and given what would represent the collapse of her strategy, it will be her whole leadership in quesiton – Senior Conservative figure

The Conservative MP said: “If she undertakes to secure that deal, it would be the only credible way she could possibly stay in the job at that point.”

Ahead of Ms May’s conference speech, Conservative MP James Duddridge revealed he had sent a letter to the chairman of the Conservative 1922 backbench committee, Sir Graham Brady, calling for a leadership contest.

Under Conservative Party rules, the 1922 chair must call a no-confidence vote of the parliamentary party in the prime minister if he receives 48 letters from MPs. It is not known how many have been submitted up to now.

A Conservative backbencher confirmed the view that Ms May would have to pursue a Canada-style free trade deal or face a challenge if Chequers falls.

He said: “Of course she would. If her entire negotiating strategy falls apart how can she possibly keep trying to negotiate on it.

“Delivering a free trade deal as the only option left that could get through parliament after the death of Chequers, is the only thing she might stay on to do. Even then it would be in the face of calls to quit.”

A member of the cabinet told The Independent that it would not be unexpected for sections of the party to clash with the prime minister if Chequers fails.

“If you’re pursuing a strategy and the strategy is a failure, then people are going to ask the individual who advocated it and led it to take responsibility for the outcome,” the frontbencher said.

“It’s also true that if Chequers or whatever it ends up being called doesn’t work, then it’s hard to see what else other than a free trade deal will get through, either in Brussels or London.”

The Independent reported last week how Ms May is preparing to tweak her approach to make it more saleable to the EU, accepting a customs arrangement more closely aligned to Brussels than previously thought and accepting more European regulation in future.

Parliament’s return on Tuesday gives her the first opportunity to gauge cabinet support, with several members known to be more inclined towards a Canada style-free trade deal.

Some ministers said ahead of conference that they were even pushing for the word “Chequers” to be removed from the government’s discourse on Brexit, with Ms May then not saying it in her keynote speech.

Johnson devoted his conference appearance to attacking Ms May’s plans, branding them a “cheat” and saying there is still time to adopt a Canada-style arrangement.

Advocates say it is the only way the UK can gain enough freedom from EU regulation and customs to sign effective free trade deals, but Downing Street argues it would mean splitting the UK, because Brussels has suggested it would necessitate Northern Ireland staying inside an EU customs union to keep open the border with the Republic – an argument Brexiteers reject.

On Thursday, Mr Tusk said a Canada-style deal had always been on offer “from the very beginning”, increasing pressure on Ms May to change tack ahead of the summit in mid-October.

Looking beyond Brexit, Ms May has said she is in post for the “long term”, though since the botched 2017 election there has been an understanding inside and outside Downing Street that after withdrawal her leadership would come into question.

More recently, however, some MPs say they have detected signs that she thinks she really can stay on after Brexit.

One senior backbencher told The Independent: “There’s a real fear she is beginning to think she should stay, that she doesn’t want her time to be defined by Brexit.

“But frankly, that is the only reason she is in the job. To take one for the team and then allow someone else to come in with a vision.”

©INDEPENDENT


The Independent has launched its #FinalSay campaign to demand that voters are given a voice on the final Brexit deal.

MICHAEL WHITE: Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson are the twin embarrassments of the week

Boris Johnson. Photo: PA / Simon Dawson
Boris Johnson. Photo: PA / Simon Dawson

aiwa.press/Let’s try to maintain this column’s dignity by keeping its trousers on and seeing how far we can get with the serious stuff this week before having to mention the tawdry B-Word. No, on this occasion I do not mean Brexit.

The serious stuff starts with that flurry of ‘Brexit deal possible in two months, says Barnier’ headlines which have been building since the weekend. Is it just another clumsy briefing of correspondents in Brussels and Berlin, eagerly amplified in beleaguered Whitehall, but soon to be squashed by the Élysée spokesman or from the glossy modernist, German chancellery?

Or has the political breakout from Michel Barnier’s Brexit negotiating brief, a tightly-drawn trench rigidly defended, finally begun – like the Battle of Amiens whose 100th anniversary we recently celebrated? No, let’s not do battle analogy, they are the curse of the Brexit mindset. Or rather, battles won are the curse. Corporal Mogg is not so keen on those we lost, except (of course) Dunkirk.

But if there really is a general realisation among the EU27 that a no-deal Brexit on March 29 is possible – 50/50 or even 60/40 – and that this would be very bad for everyone, then the suddenly-important Salzburg summit next Thursday might yield hope for Theresa May.

No wonder she has been offering self-deprecating dancing tips on Twitter! The embarrassing collapse of grandiose plans by Jacob Rees-Mogg’s European Not-Much-Research Group (ERG) to publish an alternative Brexit blueprint – this amid comic policy disputes and ego-driven clashes of personal ambition – must also have put a spring in May’s kitten heels.

Emails show that the European Research Group, led by Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg (pictured) and ex-Brexit Minister Steve Baker, has a ‘second’ bank account to pay for wining and dining supporters
Emails show that the European Research Group, led by Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg (pictured) and ex-Brexit Minister Steve Baker, has a ‘second’ bank account to pay for wining and dining supporters

There again, the softer mood music for the coming season of Strictly Come Negotiating might be a tactical feint, another tease by the judging panel. Mogg and Steve Baker will also bounce back, unabashed by their failure or by Liam (no “irrational positivity” please) Fox’s defection to Planet Reality. Fox may re-defect when he reads his own interview with a previously obscure magazine called The Truth Trade.

Similar uncertainty hangs over Sweden’s weekend election result. Has the challenge from the far-right Sweden Democrats been stemmed by the centre left alliance (144 seats) and its centre right (142) equivalent? Or does the rebranded neo-Nazis’ 63-seat bloc – despite being below polling predictions – change consensual Swedish politics for ever, as the populist surge has done elsewhere in the prosperous Nordic social democracies?

A little of both, I suspect, as the poison is doing everywhere, most conspicuously in the Trumpified US, but even in pious, Protestant Germany. Good governance can hold the line, but it is having to raise its game. It must respond effectively to voter dismay, much of it legitimate, about economic stagnation and the impact of large-scale immigration, creative but often disorderly, on their most vulnerable communities.

The tone of public discourse will remain harsher until these concerns have been addressed. And in such fluidity the daily rush of events point both ways. Matteo Salvini, Italy’s de facto prime minister, this week backed off his election pledge to expel 500,000 illegal immigrants after colliding with reality in office. There will be no wall across the Mediterranean.

But Salvini’s new EU ally on the populist right, Viktor Orban, has been ramping up his confrontational rhetoric at the European parliament in Strasbourg where MEPs had finally been screwing up their courage to sanction the Hungarian prime minister – or not, if the Merkel bloc (helped by departing UK Tories) can head them off.

At stake is the familiar litany of populist abuses, Orban’s calculated assaults on the press and judges, his nepotism and fraud. With minor modifications – delete university freedom, insert Syrian instead of Mexicans – and it could be Warsaw, Washington, Rome or Vienna. Bunga Bunga London even, where tax cheats (so HMRC now admits) avoid a trial if they’re rich enough. A bit like the thriving market for Russian plutocrats to buy Maltese passports now that post-Skripal London is tightening up.

Let’s be positive where we can, so that means ignoring renewed migrant clashes in Germany this week. In cautiously upbeat mood the former Swedish prime and foreign minister, veteran Carl Bildt (69), admitted on BBC Radio 4 the other day that the optimistic and hopeful Europe in which he worked for so long – in the boom years – has since given way to the politics of identity and fear.

The Europe of Dreams may have faded, but it is being replaced by the “Europe of Necessity”, he insists. Unlike so many, Bildt did not blame the EU for current upheavals, but the member states whose leaders had too often failed to explain EU policies and ambitions to their voters. Does he mean you, Tony Blair? By default this omission has allowed Brussels to be scapegoated by insurgent nationalistic populists, he explains.

The ‘Europe of Necessity’ is a good phrase, it’s been knocking around among EU elites for some time. For Emmanuel Macron and the likes of that dogged Belgian federalist, Guy Verhofstadt, the answer is always ‘more Europe’. The Belgian said this week that Brexit will prove such a cautionary tale that it will cure euroscepticism across the remaining 27.

Well, he would, wouldn’t he? Belgium has always been one of the most vulnerable and fragile states in Europe, as viewers of ITV’s Vanity Fair will be reminded again in an episode or two. But Bildt’s self-righteous allocation of blame is generous to Brussels, in my opinion. The Commission has tried to do too much too badly and the Council of Ministers has kicked too many core problems down the road. The Martin Selmayr affair, sharp practice to propel the German insider into the Commission’s top job, confirmed last week by the Irish ombudsman, will end up in the long grass too. Who cares about British protests now?

All the same, we’ll miss lots about ‘Brussels’ when it’s gone, especially if the Moggster’s ERG blueprint – slashed taxes and regulations – ever comes to pass, not to mention the draft’s fantasy ‘Star Wars’ anti-missile defence shield. That’s is why, warts and all, such an unheroic phrase as ‘Europe of Necessity’ may be one whose hour has come in Brexit-torn Britain.

The latest polling data confirm growing fears about the economic consequences of a bad Brexit are finally breaking through. Was that a 59% to 41% finding in favour of Remain, I saw somewhere? Meeting in Manchester, this week’s TUC has backed a second referendum – a People’s Vote – if May brings back a deal that doesn’t protect its members’ rights and interests.

These are starting to look like substantial bales of straw in the wind. The Unite union chief Len McCluskey, Jeremy Corbyn’s banker, wriggled in Manchester because neither he nor the Labour leadership, whose inner core his own team dominates, want to be pinned down by the People’s Vote option.

Instead they want a general election. Of course, they do. Unveiling his own plans for greater economic fairness and workers’ rights in Manchester – echoes of what left-wing activists rejected in the 1970s – the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, explained that “we are going to keep all the options on the table”. He prefers May’s government to collapse and let Corbyn win the ensuing election.

Wishful thinking on both counts.

We are edging closer here to the B-word. No, not B for Blair either. The former PM came as near as he wisely could at this stage to saying last week that Labour moderates have lost the intra-party battle with the left and that he will not vote for a Corbyn premiership in 2022. That is another significant brick pulled out of the tottering wall.

The Momentum left responded by stepping up its deselection campaign – in ultra-marginal Canterbury, which Labour took by a fluke in 2017, for heaven’s sake – while ‘leader’ Corbyn averted his gaze in the name of “party democracy”, as usual. He really doesn’t get it, does he?

So the Labour leadership will try to vote down any half-credible deal May may bring home from the EU’s pre-Christmas summit or post-Christmas cliff-hanger and put party before country in doing so.

That will put mainstream Labour MPs on the spot. But chief whip Nick Brown, loyal instrument of Gordon Brown’s endless manoeuvres against Blair, is not best-placed to demand loyalty from MPs, especially on behalf of serial rebel, Corbyn.

The parliamentary numbers are impossible accurately to predict when so many tectonic plates (copyright John Prescott) are moving. A politician more experienced that Steve ‘Resigner’ Baker – who claims an 80-vote Tory veto on the Chequers model – would know that. Has he never heard of dangled knighthoods? What else are they for?

The crucial votes this autumn will be Tory votes of MPs faced with a menu of lesser evils. Compromise on Chequers or dying in the no-deal ditch? A Mogg-backed Boris in Number 10? Or Jeremy Corbyn?

A messy ‘Half-Blind Brexit’ deal may include only vague outlines of a future trade deal, to be finalised during the two-year transition.

It would enrage the purists but may satisfy weary voters, especially if it stabilises a shaky economy or the kind of problem which Philip Hammond warned against on Tuesday – for which he has persuaded Mark Carney to stay on at the Bank of England.

And this decision would be taken against austerity-driven crises in the police (“civil disorder” anyone?) and the NHS, about whose stresses we hear every day.

It would take courage and conviction, reckless or romantic, to vote to pile on further disorder if May, Merkel and Macron – the Three M’s – compromise and kick the can forward. The dangled K may be a better course for a wavering MP.

Tuesday’s Economists for Free Trade session (actually it was only Patrick Minford) further highlighted the content-lite Moggsters’ divisions: A public shambles. Over-excited BBC bulletins next morning on a “secret” meeing of 50 Brexit MPs, amateur plotters to unseat May (but not yet, of course), served the same purpose – wake us up when you’ve got a candidate, boys!

With a heavy heart this brings us unavoidably to the B-word. Who is that all-too-familiar figure writing demented columns about Chequers “suicide vests” for the Mail on Sunday, the paper which has just sacked his sister as a columnist? Who is that mooning the prime minister from the safety of a bush in St James’s Park? It is, it’s him, the self-styled World King.

Who then writes another incontinent, tax-slashing column for the Telegraph against the advice of wiser supporters who want their embarrassing hero to shut up for a bit? Yes, it’s Bonking Boris, the married father of four (and counting), who is reported to be wooing yet another young woman barely half his age.

Was he, as reported, encouraging his protégée to abuse her position as head of the party’s press operation for partisan advantage (his)? Was Johnson really thinking about putting Carrie Symonds on the FCO payroll as an adviser? Did Michael ‘Trust Me’ Gove also support her activist campaign to force a government U-turn on the proposed release/parole for the black cab rapist? The unravelling story rolls on, fed by a crop of photos from Facebook and elsewhere.

As for the uproar triggered by the Sun’s exclusive about the break-up of the 25-year Johnson marriage, the widely-touted suggestion that it was orchestrated either by Boris himself (“clearing the decks for a leadership contest”) or by Number 10 strikes me as far-fetched too.

Symonds was flashing indiscreet texts from her Sir Galahad at a wedding three months ago. The then-foreign secretary was hardly discreet himself, no wonder he made such a poor fist of the day job. Half the Westminster press corps seems to have known what was going on, even some clued-up MPs did. In the post-Leveson era all they needed was an excuse.

So Boris-gate was an accident waiting to happen and happen it did. With customary tabloid clarity the Mirror front page duly asked its readers to consider what the egotist champion had just done (again) to his own family, then ask what they thought Johnson might do to their own, if given half a chance?

Fair question, but the brutal truth is personal morality is not always an effective guide to an effective political leader.

David Lloyd George provides the prime text in modern British politics. Saved from ruin by the loyalty of his wife in the pre-war Mirror libel suit and saved again by a partisan select committee verdict on the Marconi insider-trading scandal, it meant he was still available to re-energise a flagging war effort in 1916.

Throughout the inter-war years many of the clever politicians – Oswald Mosley, Churchill, Nye Bevan, LG too – were (rightly) deemed mad, bad or dangerous to know by what Stanley Baldwin called his “cabinet of faithful husbands”. In 1940 it was a different story. It always is when the chips are down.

Lloyd George’s wartime partner, Georges Clemenceau, the ‘Tiger of France’, was no domestic angel either. Lord Palmerston, the mid-Victorian Whig, was a popular populist PM, a notorious ladies’ man of whose paternity suit Disraeli said the Tories should keep it a secret – “or he will sweep the country”. Pam was nearly 80.

Despite his own Churchillian daydreams, reinforced by an autobiographical account of the great man’s life, Boris Johnson fails the ‘Flawed Great Man’ test.

In his ‘wilderness’ decade, Churchill the journalist and backbench rebel, often used inflammatory language and showed poor judgement. He had views on everything: often wrong.

But he was on the green leather benches, week in week out, challenging the Chamberlain government with evidence of inadequate defence preparation, often provided by the kind of government officials now doing the same to Donald Trump.

A cabinet minister at 33, a progressive home secretary at 35, by 54 – Johnson’s age – Churchill was in his ninth cabinet office and his fourth (flawed) year as chancellor of the exchequer.

At every level the comparison is absurd, worth making only because the portly plotter makes it, if only by implication.

Neither as a journalist and author, let alone as a politician, has he achieved one tenth.

Mayor of London? Oh please. It is not quite being first lord of the Admiralty in 1914, or even environment and defence secretary as Michael Heseltine had been when he challenged Margaret Thatcher. Boris presided over some costly vanity projects, some very tall buildings and (‘where was he?’) the London riots, but not much else.

Yet here he is being talked up yet again as the man to challenge (the necessary votes for a trigger ballot are always not quite enough) and replace Theresa May, but not quite yet.

As he demonstrated on live television, Johnson wasn’t ready in 2016 why should we think better of him two failed years later?

Here is a man, solitary by temperament, much in need of attention, preferably distant but adoring, highly educated, in the Classics too (they understood populism), yet strangely empty. What makes Boris tick, people ask? Vanity and fear of what Churchill called his “black dog” of depression, perhaps. Boris the sad clown?

Might that explain the compulsive risk-taking? What’s Lloyd George like on his own, someone wondered. “When he’s on his own, he doesn’t exist,” came the reply.

It was someone else who remarked that LG didn’t care where the train was going as long as he was the engine driver. Like Gordon Brown, Johnson is a man with an ambition for power, but not a coherent vision of what to do with it, far less so even than his partner-in-vanity-and-misrule Donald Trump. How Boris must hate the obvious comparison! But Trump and Brown are both much more substantial figures.

Have we misjudged Boris? Among friends and foes some think so, that it is all calculation with a purpose, not a lackadaisical stumble. What if his tasteless Mail on Sunday distraction was not simply a ‘dead cat’ gambit from Lynton ‘Dog Whistle’ Crosby’s grubby bag of tricks to deflect the headlines from his dalliance with Symonds and divorce from Marina Wheeler QC?

What if the dead cat served a second diversionary purpose, to distract attention from the ERG’s strategic failure to produce a coherent Brexit plan after all this time? It certainly should have been a greater priority.

The ERG will huff and puff, saying it is not their job, but their divisions over policy and personnel have been exposed, leaving May more scope for manoeuvre.

So the collapse of Plan B is another milestone moment on the road to reality and compromises with the Europe of Necessity. Truth Talks, as Dr Fox might put it – and certainly did in that interview. “We have got to be rational and say that everything will not be wonderful just because we are leaving the EU… there are some great opportunities that come from Brexit… but that is not a guarantee that everything is going to be rosy on the other side. That will be dependent on our own actions and the actions of others.”

It’s tempting to say ‘now he tells us’, but more constructive to say ‘Welcome back to the Europe of Necessity’.

Brittle Britain: what could help the UK right now?

By David Baker//Christian Today

The long, heavy heat of Britain’s summer of 2018 has somehow seemed to fit well with the prevailing emotional and political atmosphere of the nation.

The warmth has slowed people down; gardens are dry, reservoirs low. Similarly, the wells and springs of political life feel parched, empty and drained. Just as tiny creatures scuttle across the surface of a dry riverbed, searching for a glimpse of water or food, so our politicians run around in little circles, looking for something – anything – to help them.

Brexit
PixabayBrittle Britain: we are not a country at ease with ourselves.

On one side of the political divide we have a Conservative Party bitterly riven over Brexit; on the Labour side, there are ructions over antisemitism as a hard-left takeover continues. Both parties appear to be led by individuals temperamentally unsuited to the demands such responsibility brings. In the background, the third party, the Liberal Democrats, are also unhappy with their leader; in Scotland, the nationalists watch and wait, eyeing their chances.

And all this is taking place within an atmosphere of acute apprehension in the run-up to leaving the EU next year. Remainers have always feared the worst; now they fret that a worst-case scenario really could unfold. Leavers, too, have their anxieties: will it all work out? What if it doesn’t? And what if they are let down by some kind of fudge or even reversal of Brexit?

We have been here before, of course. There were dire predictions of the ‘Millennium Bug’ for the start of the year 2000, when it was feared computers might crash terminally, planes might drop out of the sky, and food shortages could result. And then there was ‘Project Fear’ – that there would be an immediate economic catastrophe if Britons even just voted to leave the EU, never mind actually doing so.

Both those fears were ungrounded, it turned out. And yet, somehow, this time, it does feel different. The atmosphere is brittle, fractious, and full of foreboding. Will we look back on this drought too as some have looked back on ‘the long hot summer’ before the First World War – as the ominous (in retrospect) heat before a massive shock to the system? As the History Journal put it a few years ago: ‘The summer of 1914 was memorable for its picnic-perfect weather… [But it] would for many decades become synonymous with astonishing naiveté’. Will we look back in the future and wonder what could have been done to stop a preventable economic or political upheaval of some kind? Or will we muddle through?

Against this backdrop, regrettably, the church of Jesus Christ continues to attract attention for many of the wrong reasons – most notably child abuse and other sex scandals. It’s tragic. For we as Christians have some things which are unique and important to bring to a situation such as this. What then can – should – we offer which would help the UK right now?

1. Prayer
‘Oh, yawn,’ you say, ‘I thought you were going to say something original!’ Well I hope you didn’t say that, but if you did let me gently rebuke you. ‘Prayer is…the Christian’s vital breath,’ as the hymn puts it. The fashionable practice of mindfulness (which has many good aspects) may help us breathe well physically, but how well are we breathing spiritually in prayer? The Bible exhorts us to pray for those in authority. So are you praying regularly (regardless of political affiliation) for Theresa May, the cabinet and Parliament? Does your church prayer meeting do that? ‘Some trust in Brexit or Bremain,’ as the psalmist didn’t quite say, ‘But we trust in the name of the Lord our God,’ (Psalm 20:7).

2. Kindness
‘Oh yeah,’ you say, ‘that sounds nice. And also rather dull.’ But no, really – especially online. You know what Twitter and much social media are like. They are full of vitriol and contempt and abuse and general disgust with the ‘other’. A society supposedly espousing tolerance and diversity is surprisingly intolerant of any divergence from, well, what we think, whichever group ‘we’ happen to be: Remainers or Leavers, Corbynites or non-Corbynites, left or right, those who think Jordan Peterson has the answers or those who think he begs the question. How easily as Christians we can be swept along in this too. But our identity is not in politics or flag or group; it is in Christ. And that should make a difference. The God revealed in Jesus is ‘compassionate and gracious’ – and so, by the grace of God, should we be.

3. Christ
In all our words and deeds we seek to model and point people towards Jesus, in whom are found ‘all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge’ as the New Testament puts it, and in whom all aching, restless hearts can find peace. ‘Safe space’ is a popular concept these days, but Christ is truly the only safe place. Yes, at the end of the day, it really all does come back to Jesus – and who people say he is. In this parched and brittle country, with its scorched gardens and febrile politics, the invitation of Christ comes anew with its offer of satisfying, surprising refreshment: ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.’ Put simply, the UK needs Jesus.

David Baker is a former daily newspaper journalist now working as an Anglican minister in Sussex, England. Find him on Twitter @Baker_David_A

Labour take poll lead as public trust in Theresa May over Brexit ‘collapses’

Labour has overtaken the Conservatives as public trust in Theresa May’s ability to reach a good Brexit deal plummets, according to a poll.
Theresa May
Faith in Theresa May’s ability reach a good Brexit deal has fallen significantly.Credit: 
PA Images

In a major boost for Jeremy Corbyn, the ICM survey for the Guardian puts Labour on 41%, up two points from a fortnight ago.

The Tories slipped one point to 40%, with the Lib Dems on 8%, Ukip on 5% and the Greens on 3%.

  • Blow for Theresa May as public believe Boris Johnson would do better job of Brexit – new poll
  • Labour takes commanding poll leads as Tory vote slumps amid Brexit chaos
  • Labour snatch two-point poll lead as Brexit chaos engulfs Tories

Meanwhile the Prime Minister’s lead over the Labour leader on who is best suited to reach a good Brexit deal has dropped to just eight points, having sat at 16 points in January and a massive 34 points before last year’s general election.

According to the poll, just 26% of the public now back the Prime Minister, compared to 18% for Mr Corbyn – a change from 35% and 19% respectively at the beginning of this year.

However 44% of those polled replied “neither” when asked which leader they rated best on the issue.

ICM pollster Alex Turk said: “The public’s trust in Theresa May being able to negotiate a good Brexit deal for the UK has collapsed.

“It used to be the second strongest area for May compared to Corbyn on the areas we’ve tested, beaten only by protecting people from threats at home and abroad, but now it falls to her fourth strongest area.

“It wasn’t too long ago – back in May 2017 – that almost half (47%) of the public trusted May most to do the best job of negotiating Brexit.

“To see this proportion collapse to just over a quarter (26%) on what’s considered the biggest issue of the day could explain some of the pressure exerted on her leadership coming from within her party in recent weeks.

He added: When couched in terms of negotiating Brexit, there seems to be a public appetite for someone else entirely. We’ve seen those who trust neither May nor Corbyn to negotiate a good Brexit deal jump from 31% in January to 44% in this poll.

“This now means that, more than in any other area we ask, a large slice of the British public tend to trust neither May nor Corbyn on Brexit.

Is the Conservative Party still the second biggest political party in the UK? May be not.

The Conservative Party may no longer be the second biggest party in the UK
After a difficult week, the Conservative Party may have to face up to some more bad news today. A massive surge in SNP membership means it’s likely now the UK’s second largest party, relegating Theresa May’s party to third place.

SNP members walked out of the House of Commons during Prime Ministers Questions (PMQs) on 13 June. In the following 24 hours, over 5,000 people joined the party.

According to the latest figures released by the SNP, at least 7,526 people have joined the party since the walkout. In April 2018, Conservative Party membership was reported at just 124,000, while SNP membership sat at 118,200. The influx of members takes the SNP’s estimated total to around 125,700.

SNP Walkout

During PMQs, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford was thrown out the chamber, prompting the rest of the party’s 35 MPs to follow:

The move stemmed from anger towards the previous day’s debate. Only 15 minutes were allocated to discuss how Brexit issues related to the devolved administrations. And no Scottish MP was given an opportunity to speak.

The Scottish Parliament voted not to give its consent to the EU Withdrawal Bill. But the UK government pressed on regardless. Ministers at Holyrood accused the Conservatives of a “power grab”, with decision making over some previously devolved areas staying at Westminster.

“Petty w***rs”

If the Conservative Party has fallen behind the SNP in terms of membership figures, the blame will surely lie at the door of its MPs.

Conservative MP Ian Liddell-Grainger shouted “suicide” when an SNP MP asked what options were available for Scotland post-Brexit. The comment caused outrage among members and mental health campaigners. But Grainger doubled down, calling the party a bunch of “petty wankers”.

Scottish secretary David Mundell also opened his party up to criticism north of the border. Responding to questions in the commons, Mundell said Scotland is “not a partner of the United Kingdom, but part of the United Kingdom”:

‘Hands off our Parliament’

Since the walkout, thousands across Scotland have been taking to the streets. In Glasgow, crowds gathered at the statue of Donald Dewar, who championed the creation of the Scottish Parliament:

View image on Twitter

While hundreds took to the Scottish Parliament itself in Edinburgh:

View image on Twitter

Indyref2?

Four years after the referendum, the independence movement in Scotland seems to have found a renewed vigour. Record numbers marched through Glasgow at the recent All Under One Banner march. And the release of papers such as the Growth Commission has reignited the economic debate.

There has been much disagreement around the Growth Commission within the independence movement. And the SNP-led Glasgow City Council’s continued support for an arms fair in the city has also come under fire from both SNP members and the wider movement.

But the current fight-back against the Conservative government does seem to have truly brought the factions together under one loose banner again. The announcement of another vote on Scotland’s future seems inevitable if pressure from the grassroots is maintained. What happens then is anyone’s guess.

%d bloggers like this: