John Street’s Diary

Written By: John Street
Published: November 5, 2017 Last modified: November 5, 2017

Oh gee!?Oh joy!

Comic Robert Webb would force all MPs to strip off in the Chamber. He told an interviewer: “Politicians need more humility, so nudity would help them to see each other as vulnerable fellow humans.” But he admitted that if his proposal was adopted, parliamentary broadcasts would have to return to radio-only.


Embraceable you

Ian Dunt, editor of the website, finds black humour in the prime minister’s performance. He blogged: “One of the reasons senior Tories kept Theresa May in place after the general election was to prevent Jeremy Corbyn becoming prime minister. They couldn’t have made that outcome more likely if they’d tried. The prime minister is a recruiting sergeant for the Labour leader. She provides more reason for people to vote Labour than any policy he could possibly invent. The Tory leader gave an interview which was startling in its stupidity. She was asked if the decision to call a snap election was a factor in her performance. ‘I think it was, because by definition in a snap election you’ve not been able to prepare people for it.’ This was quite remarkable. The prime minister seemed to be admitting that she had created the conditions for her party’s failure. But it wasn’t a mea culpa. It was spoken of as if it were the wind – a fundamentally unchangeable element beyond her control. She then went on to complain about the lack of emphasis on ‘people coming together for debates during election campaigns’, despite having refused to debate her opposite number herself. It’s as if she runs around with a bag of punchlines and encourages everyone to make the jokes.”


Let ‘em eat cake

Languages student Daniel Wittenberg has identified five issues on which Theresa May turns off young voters. He blogged in The Huffington Post: “Despite the obsession over her kitten heels, Theresa May, in her incalculable lack of cool, has always cast herself as the sensible shoes of British politics: practical, professional, strong and stable. Yet as she trudges on with diminished authority, having surrendered the support of an entire generation at the general election, the Mayboot is managing to scuff even those assurances. The Conservatives were hardly in vogue beforehand, but now the Government has us fearing for our futures. As the state shrivels and the entire country turns in on itself, strains on our current finances and constraints on our prospects have turned pain into agony and ambiguity.” And his five reasons why young people are still deserting the Tories in droves? 1) The social media shambles which saw a flutter of unimpressive and patronising Twitter accounts, including Activate Britain whose members were caught joking about “gassing chavs”. 2) Party rifts and factions at a time when Labour were getting behind Jeremy Corbyn. 3) Backwards social views which give the Conservatives’ reactionary wing too much oxygen. Examples include Tim Farron failing to accept that being gay is not a sin, and Jacob Rees-Mogg opposing abortion even for rape victims. 4) Austerity. “Their strategy of shifting the financial burden onto our generation is a slow political suicide for the Conservatives, who are failing to reinforce their voter base of comfortable young professionals.” And, 5) Blindness by Brexit. Wittenberg wrote: “The marathon negotiations feel like another excuse to ignore us, even though we disagreed with Brexit, at a time when we need policies more than ever to tackle important issues for students and school leavers: funding education and healthcare, and fixing the housing crisis. It is time the Tories pulled their socks up.”


Someone to watch over me

MPs accused Donald Trump of “fearmongering” and of making “inflammatory and ignorant statements” after he claimed a rise in UK crime was caused by “radical Islamic terror”. Among a number of comments on social media, co-leader of the Green Party, Caroline Lucas, tweeted: “OK @theresa-may, this is a test. Will you publicly condemn this outright fearmongering?” Labour MP Wes Streeting also tried to involve the Prime Minister, writing: “Please tell me again why we’re rolling the red carpet out for this imbecile, @theresa-may?” Another Labour MP, Yvette Cooper, said: “It is appalling that we have reached the point where inflammatory and ignorant statements from the President of the United States are now seen as normal.” Ms Cooper tweeted in response to the President’s comments: “Hate crime in UK up 29% – sadly encouraged by ignorant tweets like this. Not good POTUS.” She added: “If we are to properly tackle hate crime and every other crime, we have to challenge this kind of nonsense.” Trump has caused controversy before by talking about extremism in Britain. While running for the White House he claimed the UK had a “massive Muslim problem”. He also alleged that parts of London were “so radicalised” that police were “afraid for their own lives”.


Let’s call the whole thing off

Blaming New Labour guru Lord Mandelson for the government’s shambolic EU negotiations is a bit of a stretch, but Tory MP Nigel Evans gave it a go. Asked by the BBC’s Sara Smith about reports that Theresa May has privately reassured the other EU leaders that she is willing to pay a lot more than the 20 billion euros indicated in her Florence speech, Evans said: “We want to make absolutely certain that Lord Peter Mandelson gets his pension into his old age and clearly there will be all sorts of British people who work at the European Union, their pensions need to be properly looked after.” Mandelson, of course, was the European Commissioner for Trade between 2004 and 2008 and is entitled to an EU pension.


I can’t get started

Tory commentator Henry Hill is scathing about the “inertia” displayed by Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire during the current constitutional logjam which for 10 months has meant no devolved administration. He blogged on conservativehome about the minister’s warning that Westminster may be forced to step in: “The driving force behind this untypical decisiveness is the fact that Ulster’s public services are about a month away from grinding to a complete halt when their budgets run out. But for the most part the Secretary of State’s approach has been one of the utmost passivity, setting deadlines which pass without consequence and letting the civil service run the Province on autopilot, and without democratic oversight.” Sam McBride, a Northern Irish journalist, wrote after Storm Ophelia battered Ireland: “The risk for Mr Brokenshire – and to some extent, also for Sinn Fein and the DUP – is that if there is a major crisis and Stormont is seen to fail in its response to the situation, he will be accused of having allowed to develop a situation in which lives were placed at risk for reasons of politics.”


I got plenty of nothing

A Welsh Labour MP has said the party “got it wrong” when it liberalised gambling laws a decade ago, by failing to predict the impact of technology. Cardiff Central’s Jo Stevens called for a ban on adverts for betting firms at sports grounds and on players’ shirts. Gambling features in 95 per cent of TV ad breaks during live football, and the government is considering new restrictions. A member of the Commons digital, culture, media and sport committee, Ms Stevens said there was growing concern across all parties about the rise in gambling addiction, with as many as half a million problem gamblers and two million regular gamblers at risk. She said Labour had changed its view since the party relaxed restrictions when it was in government under Tony Blair’s leadership.

About John Street

John Street is Tribune's diary columnist.