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Life looked rosy for the Liberal Democrats at their party conference in September 2019.

Buoyed by her election as leader, Jo Swinson, a Scot, appeared on the Andrew Marr Show on September 15. The Daily Mail reported on the programme and the party’s policies on Brexit:

The clear stance on Brexit was cemented when members at the Liberal Democrat conference in Bournemouth voted overwhelmingly to support a motion to revoke Article 50 it the party gains a majority in a general election.

The move would stop Brexit in its tracks without the need for a second referendum.

“The policy we are debating at conference today is very clear,” Ms Swinson told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.

“If the Liberal Democrats win a majority at the next election, if people put into government – as a majority government – the ‘Stop Brexit’ party, then stopping Brexit is exactly what people will get. Yes, we will revoke Article 50.”

The East Dunbartonshire MP added: “We have argued that a specific Brexit deal should be put to a People’s Vote to give clarity.

We still argue for that. But if we end up at a general election then I think we need to be straightforward with people and give them an option for all this Brexit chaos to stop.

I recognise not everyone agrees with the Lib Dems on this. (But) it is genuinely what we think is right for the country.”

Is cancelling a referendum result ‘liberal’ or ‘democratic’?

Some voters did not think it was:

Tweets began appearing about her voting record as an MP in David Cameron’s and Nick Clegg’s coalition government (2010-2015). Swinson voted with the Conservatives more often than the leading Conservative MPs of the day:

She went further than most.

However, those were but minor distractions that never hit the media. On September 19, the Daily Mail reported (emphases mine):

Jo Swinson’s party jumped from 19 per cent to 23 per cent to leapfrog Jeremy Corbyn‘s bitterly divided outfit, according to the YouGov vote tracker. 

It came after the party used its annual conference at the weekend to vow to revoke Article 50 and keep the UK in the EU if it won a general election.

Meanwhile former prime minister Tony Blair said today that UK political parties should be worried about the Lib Dems as there is a ‘great level of frustration’ about the direction Labour and the Tories are taking.

Ms Swinson used the speech to lashed out at ‘insular, closed and selfish’ Brexiteers as she branded Brexit ‘the fight of our lives for the heart and soul of Britain’.

This was the polling result published that day:

London’s Evening Standard published an exclusive interview with Tony Blair that afternoon. The former Prime Minister told the interviewer ‘you’re making me feel under-dressed’ and gave his thoughts on the Lib Dems:

… the dangers to Labour if its leader blunders into “a Brexit election” have increased following Jo Swinson’s first conference as Liberal Democrat leader this week. Her promise of a “very, very clear revoke” could be “attractive” and he thought a “resurgent” centre party could squeeze Labour.

On September 30, Twitter activists had researched Swinson’s husband, who works for a pro-EU organisation called Transparency International:

On October 9, Swinson went to Brussels to meet with EU politicians, including Guy Verhofstadt, who has travelled to England to participate in a few Lib Dem events, including their 2019 party conference:

Here is a bit more about Swinson’s visit. Lib Dem MP Tom Brake is in the far left photo:

She also met our EU negotiator Michel Barnier that day. He negotiates with the government, not opposition MPs. She has some brass neck, but, then, again, she wasn’t the only one bending the ears of EU officials:

On Wednesday, October 30, Swinson appeared on the BBC, where veteran journalist Andrew Neil gave her a grilling for insisting she could become Britain’s next Prime Minister. I watched it. It was a breathtaking half hour. The Express reported the principal soundbite around which the rest of the interview revolved:

Speaking on BBC Two’s the Andrew Neil Show, Ms Swinson said: “I’m standing as a candidate to be Prime Minister, Andrew.”

He interjected: “No one stands as a candidate to be Prime Minister. You’re standing as a candidate in East Dunbarton.”

Ms Swinson continued: “I’m standing as the leader of the Liberal Democrats.

“You’re right, we have a parliamentary democracy system and the leader of the party who secures the most or majority of MPs becomes Prime Minister.”

Oh, my!

She dug herself in deeply during that half hour:

Only two weeks later — one week into the general election campaign — Swinson’s delusions of becoming PM were dashed:

Her approval ratings haven’t budged since.

At the party’s manifesto launch on November 20, Swinson pledged to save Britain’s children from a ‘boiling planet’. You cannot make this stuff up:

Some found her rhetoric unconvincing:

Two days later, Home Secretary Priti Patel took strong exception to Swinson’s illiberal and undemocratic approach to Brexit, based on what she had said on the BBC’s Question Time:

Swinson had said on more than one occasion, the first time in an ITV interview, that she would revoke Article 50 on Day 1 of her premiership, because that is within the remit of the Prime Minister.

The BBC’s Andrew Marr decided not to ask her about that statement. The Mail on Sunday‘s Dan Hodges, Glenda Jackson’s son, wanted to be sure:

That day, Hodges had written a columm for the Mail on Sunday about how Swinson was ‘killing the Liberal Democrats’, particularly in the south west, where they always do well:

True. And the slogan on the Lib Dem leaflets is:

STOP BREXIT

in large upper-case letters.

Negative slogans are nearly always the least persuasive.

She began turning off voters in earnest:

Many men have said, rather politely, that Swinson would do well to wear, as one put it, ‘more business-like attire’. Where do one’s eyes go when looking at her? We would like to look more at her face without the other obvious distraction, which women have noticed, too. A Chanel-style jacket would certainly help.

She also made a huge mis-step by putting a huge photo of her face on the side of the Lib Dem battle bus:

Then Andrew Neil chimed in. Oh, boy, did Neil nail it:

On Wednesday, December 4, she made a second appearance on Andrew Neil’s show. She seemed more realistic but, by now, it no longer matters for her or for the Lib Dems. They have sunk like a stone:

She’ll be lucky if they pick up one more MP.

Neil quizzed her on her past voting record, which she now admits was a mistake. He then asked if we couldn’t trust her to make good judgements in the past, how could we do so now? Fair point, well made:

ITV’s political editor Robert Peston sounded the death knell for the Lib Dems on December 5:

This is the latest polling. Lib Dems are down three points:

Of course, all of us pontificating on and projecting their result next week could be wrong, but, somehow, I doubt it.

Lib Dems: same as they ever were, Jo or no Jo.

Watford, England, a quick ride from London, was the setting for the 70th anniversary of NATO.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was the host and, despite a few squabbles, everything went well.

Watford residents were probably the most consterned, not to mention inconvenienced.

On November 13, Hertfordshire Police began warning about the residents’ inability to circulate fully between Monday and Wednesday this week. The BBC reported (emphases mine):

Police in Hertfordshire are suggesting people work from home to avoid disruption caused by a meeting of world leaders in Watford next month.

Heads of state will congregate at the Grove Hotel on Wednesday, 4 December as part of Nato’s 70th anniversary summit.

Several roads and footpaths will be shut and the Grand Union Canal will be closed to both boats and pedestrians.

The force said it aimed to keep the impact to an “absolute minimum”.

The meeting is part of the London anniversary summit which Nato said will be “an opportunity for leaders to address current and emerging security challenges”.

Hertfordshire Constabulary has been liaising with the Metropolitan Police and other agencies to take measures to “minimise the impact on the community”.

Closures will be in place for all, or some, of the time between 06:00 GMT on 2 December and 20:00 GMT on 4 December but there will be access for emergency and essential services.

I heard from someone who has friends there that Watford ‘looked like a war zone’ with concrete bollards at the end of certain streets. Thankfully, it’s all over now.

On Monday, December 2, the Watford Observer reported on the road closures in town and included photos of security at The Grove, where Bilderberg met a few years ago in June. The Grove was once home to the Earls of Clarendon. Today, it is a pricey hotel and conference centre with a golf course.

One Observer reader commented:

I hope Herts tax payers aren’t paying for the extra security. The Bilderberg meeting cost us half a million.

The skies were busy:

As Conservative Party leader, Boris is in the midst of an election campaign. Voting day is Thursday, December 12. Therefore, given President Donald Trump’s universal unpopularity here, journalists believed that Boris would minimise his appearances and private meetings with him.

President Trump had his own concerns, as Democrats continued impeachment hearings on December 4:

This week it is the turn of the House Judiciary Committee:

Returning to NATO, The Sun has a good summary of the participants in and schedule for this year’s summit.

Boris interrupted his attendance with a few election campaign appearances:

This is a great photograph from Wednesday, December 4:

Before the summit began, The Spectator encapsulated the contentious tone that French president Emmanuel Macron had established:

This week is seminal for Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron. Boris, in Watford, is hosting one of the most important Nato summits for years. Its significance is not because it marks the Alliance’s 70th anniversary, but because of President Macron’s ‘disruptive’ and trenchant criticism of the Atlantic Alliance as close to ‘brain dead’, which has touched a nerve. The French President went on to reiterate his remarks at an Elysée press conference, with a visibly uncomfortable Nato Secretary General, three weeks later. Macron attacked the ‘strident and unacceptable disconnection’ from world threats during the last two Nato summits as being ‘uniquely devoted’, in his sarcastic words, ‘to finding solutions to how to lighten the United States’ financial costs’. All this, says Macron, while major strategic questions such as relations with Russia, Turkey and ‘who is the enemy?’ remain unanswered.

The Trumps arrived early Monday morning at Stansted Airport in Essex, not far from London. The Daily Mail has several photos of the Trumps’ arrival.

Ambassador Robert ‘Woody’ Johnson hosted the couple at Winfield House in Regent’s Park, the US ambassador’s palatial residence. American heiress Barbara Hutton had the neo-Georgian mansion custom built in 1936. After the Second World War, she sold it to the US Government for one dollar.

This was the scene on Monday night as the Trumps returned to Winfield House after a reception at No. 10 Downing Street. Amazingly, an NHS lorry just beat the motorcade. The ongoing false accusations of Labour against Boris planning on ‘selling the NHS’ to the United States made this all the more ironic:

President Trump has been rightly exercised over the refusal of nearly all NATO nations to pay their share, leaving the US to largely foot the bill:

In January, NATO’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg agreed with Trump’s strategy:

Even James Mattis, who left the Trump administration as he and the president did not see eye to eye, admits that his former boss has improved NATO:

On Tuesday morning, the US president hit the ground running, beginning by co-hosting a breakfast at Winfield House with Jens Stoltenberg for principal NATO leaders and cabinet members:

He gave an extensive interview afterwards, covering 17 topics. Sky News has a good summary, some of which is excerpted below.

On the upcoming British election, he said:

On the NHS, he said:

I have nothing to do with it. Never even thought about it, honestly.

I don’t even know where that rumour started.

We have absolutely nothing to do with it, and we wouldn’t want to. If you handed it to us on a silver platter, we’d want nothing to do with it.

On Jeremy Corbyn:

I know nothing about the gentleman.

On France and, indirectly, Emmanuel Macron:

Nobody needs NATO more than France.

France is not doing well economically at all, they are struggling. It’s a tough statement to make when you have such difficulty in France.

You look at what happened with the Yellow Vests, they’ve had a rough year, you can’t go around making statements like that about NATO. It’s very disrespectful.

That’s why I think when France makes a statement like they do about NATO that’s a very dangerous statement for them to make.

On upcoming US and French taxes:

Well look, I’m not in love with those companies – Facebook, Google and all of them, Twitter – though I guess I do pretty well with Twitter on the other side – but I’m not necessarily in love with those companies. But they’re our companies, they’re American companies, I want to tax those companies.

They’re not going to be taxed by France. So France is going to put a tax on, it was totally out of the blue, they just had an idea, Emmanuel had an idea, let’s tax those companies, well they’re American companies. I’m not going to let people take advantage of American companies because if anyone’s going to take advantage of American companies it’s going to be us, it’s not going to be France.

And so we’re taxing, as you know, we’re taxing their wines, and everything else and we have a very, very big tax to put on them. Plus we have a tax going on on Airbus and that would be a good thing for Boeing but we’re only going to do that if it’s necessary.

But they’re American companies. I don’t want France taxing American companies. If they’re going to be taxed it’s going to be the United States that will tax them.

On North Korea and Kim Jong-Un:

Likes sending rockets up, doesn’t he? That’s why I call him rocket man.

We have a very good relationship and we’ll see what happens. It may work or not. But in the meantime, it’s been a long time. President Obama said it’s the number one problem and it would have been war. You’d be in a war right now if it weren’t for me.

If I weren’t president, you’d be in a war right now in Asia. And who knows where that leads? That brings in a lot of other countries.”

On Mr Kim, he added: ‘You know my relationship with Kim Jong Un is really good but that doesn’t mean he won’t abide by the agreement we signed. You have to understand, you have to go look at the first agreement that we signed. It said he will denuclearise. That’s what it said. I hope he lives up to the agreement but we’re going to find out.’

ZeroHedge had another remark from the US president on his French counterpart:

‘I do see France breaking off. I’m looking at him and I’m saying he [Macron] needs protection more than anybody and I see him breaking off, so I’m a little surprised at that,’ Trump said.

Returning to the NHS, here’s a video of Trump saying he’s not interested:

Labour supporters continue to circulate an old video saying he is. If the video you see does not look like the one immediately above, then it’s old — and obsolete.

Late Tuesday afternoon, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall welcomed the Trumps to Clarence House for tea.

They then went to Buckingham Palace, where the Queen hosted a reception for NATO leaders:

The Daily Mail has extensive photos of both the reception and tea at Clarence House.

I cannot help but feel sorry for Her Majesty being squashed by Jens and Boris. Why could they not have given her some breathing room?

During the reception, Justin from Canada made his views known about Trump. He later admitted that he was talking about his meeting with the US president, which ended up being 40 minutes late because of the extended press conference:

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, also in attendance, hoped to corner Trump to tell him not to engage in any trade negotiations regarding the NHS. In the event, Corbyn was on one side of the room and Trump on the other. They never met.

Meanwhile, several dozen radical protesters demonstrated outside:

Then it was on to No. 10, where Boris hosted a reception for NATO leaders. Some news reports said that Boris wasn’t there to greet them, but other news accounts said that he had been delayed by ten minutes in returning from Buckingham Palace.

In any event, since when does the Prime Minister personally open the door? It’s always a policeman or woman who handles that.

The Trumps looked ill at ease when they arrived, despite a choir singing Christmas carols in the background. Had they already found out about Justin from Canada’s hot mic moment at Buckingham Palace?

On Wednesday morning, Trump arrived at The Grove for the final day of the summit:

It is said that the president left early. He was there for the photo op. Perhaps he simply cancelled a second press conference. What more did he have to say?

The US president had his own hot mic moment that day:

In another NATO hot mic moment, President Donald Trump was recorded saying it was “funny” when he called Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “two-faced.”

Interestingly, Boris’s key adviser, Dominic Cummings, was spotted sitting on the sidelines that day:

No doubt the residents of Watford were happy to see the sun go down that day, heralding a return to normality for them:

The summit went well, as the Estonian and Dutch prime ministers respectively tweeted:

President Trump was happy, too:

Back in the UK, later that day, questions for Boris still persisted about the NHS:

Politics aside, our Prime Minister can be pleased with his role in hosting the 70th NATO summit, which took place without incident.

Friday, November 29, 2019, began as a normal day in the general election campaign.

Tom Harwood, who works with Guido Fawkes, ably outlines what the political parties were up to until the afternoon, when a terror attack took place on London Bridge, effectively halting the campaign for 24 hours:

Guido’s accompanying column received a lot of comments, including the following.

On Brexit, a reader quoted an MEP on the necessity of No Deal (emphases mine):

Ben Habib MEP: “There is perhaps only one way the Conservative Party could comply with its pledge to be out of Transition by the end of 2020 with a deal along the lines set out in its manifesto. That is if it is prepared to take the UK out of Transition without a deal. It remains as true today as it did in 2016 that, to get a good deal, the UK must be prepared to leave with no deal.”

Labour pledged more madness. Only a few days after they promised to plant 2 billion — yes, you read that correctly — trees in Britain, they came up with a massive housing pledge. Another reader discussed Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell’s plan:

John Mcd threw the kitchen sink in with his environmental pitch today not only Labour building more houses than their is bricks on the planet, every house will have solar panels and heat exchangers. No longer grasping, just saying anything because they just ignore the facts.

Another reader discussed what would happen if Labour’s — McDonnell’s — plans for corporations came to fruition:

McDonnell intends to steal 10% of a company’s share capital and give it away. Either he steals existing capital or a company creates more shares. Either way the value of the company remains the same but now everyone’s shares will be worth less either because there are more shares or the shares have been given to someone else. So, anyone paying into a Defined Contribution Pension Fund and there are millions doing just that, will suddenly find that their savings are worth a lot less than before the capital restructuring. Someone tell the voters.

Another comment examined the Liberal Democrats‘ Jo Swinson’s perorations on climate change:

‘Climate Change’ – we can’t “fight it by leaving the EU”. 🤔

What won’t we be able to do as an EU state in relation to climate change – that we otherwise can do as a member ?

Given the fact that China produces more C02 emissions that the EU Britain and the US combined – what is it that we are supposed to do ?

Has Swinson thought this through ? Or is it just a risible hollow slogan for yoghurt knitters in the middle classes ?

Someone pointed out what the 2017 terror attack — also on London Bridge — did to the Conservatives‘ chances days later in the June 8 election:

… the problem is that the Tories are allowing Labour and the others to constantly raise the NHS, climate, trust, WASPIs and everything else besides, in an effort to sideline the Brexit debate. And I’m worried that it’s working! Tories need to get the agenda back on message ASAP. Also, I presume that I don’t need to point out the disturbing similarity to the 2017 campaign in what we’ve witnessed unfold on London Bridge today, and that it signalled the beginning of the end for Theresa May’s majority as soon as Labour used those atrocities to introduce reduced police numbers into the debate. I’m nervous. Very, very nervous!

That concerns me, too. However, Boris Johnson is not Theresa May. He’s campaigning across the country every day.

Moving on to Twitter, someone pointed out that a fatal incident has occurred before each of the last three plebiscites in Britain:

Friday afternoon took a dark and bloody turn as events unfolded at London Bridge.

Cambridge University was holding a conference at Fishmongers’ Hall near London Bridge. The subject of the conference was prisoner rehabilitation.

Attending the conference on day release wearing an electronic tag was 28-year-old Usman Khan, who, as the Press Association (PA) reports:

was a convicted terrorist released half-way through a 16-year prison sentence for a plot to bomb the London Stock Exchange.

Last Friday:

Usman Khan killed a man and a woman in the knife rampage on Friday afternoon and injured three other people, who are being treated in hospital.

The 28-year-old, who was on licence and wearing an electronic monitoring tag, was attending a conference on prisoner rehabilitation organised by University of Cambridge-associated Learning Together at Fishmongers’ Hall and reportedly “threatened to blow up” the building.

Armed with two knives and wearing a fake suicide vest, Khan was tackled by members of the public before he was shot dead by police on London Bridge next to the Hall.

Video footage posted online shows Khan being taken to the ground as one man sprays him with a fire extinguisher and another, reportedly a Polish chef, lunges towards him with a narwhal tusk believed to have been taken from the wall inside the Hall.

Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said he had been living in the Staffordshire area and that police were “not actively seeking anyone else” over the attack.

Why do police always say that? Often, in the weeks that follow, it turns out there was a plot involving more than one person, including some that had no prior police record but were aiders and abetters.

What about the attack that same day in the Netherlands? This is what happened in The Hague:

Returning to London Bridge, no doubt this is the first time many of us have heard of a narwhal tusk, but you can see below what they look like in nature on this species of whale, also known as the unicorn whale. The tusk protrudes from a canine tooth. The narwhal lives in Arctic waters.

A narwhal tusk was hanging in Fishmongers’ Hall. A quick-thinking man deployed it against the terrorist:

Here’s a dramatic video of events as they happened. The second tweet shows Fishmongers’ Hall. One of the pikes shown below was used in subduing the terrorist:

Here is a video of what happened on London Bridge when the police arrived. Fishmongers’ Hall is pictured in the second tweet:

Understandably, everyone would like to see the men who subdued the terrorist given an honour or reward of some sort. However, one of them was also a prisoner on day release, attending the Cambridge University conference. James Ford had committed a horrific murder in cold blood in 2003 and was given a life sentence in 2004. Hmm:

The Mirror reported:

James Ford, 42, was jailed for life in 2004 for the murder of 21-year-old Amanda Champion, who was found strangled with her throat cut in Ashford, Kent, in July 2003 …

Ford found himself embroiled on the London Bridge attack as he helped bring down the knife man while out on day release from his life sentence.

Ford is understood to be in the final days of his sentence at HMP Standford Hill, an open prison in Kent.

It’s believed Khan was tackled by ex-offenders inside Fishmongers’ Hall – who had all been invited to a conference on rehabilitation.

Source say Khan began “lashing out” in a downstairs room of the hall but was grabbed by the conference-goers and bundled out of the front door as he tried to go upstairs.

Those who tackled Khan on the street were not ex-offenders.

Ford’s victim’s aunt Angela Cox has told how she was contacted yesterday by Kent Police who informed her Ford had been involved in the terror attack as a member of the public, reports the Mail.

Angela, 65, said she was “angry” Ford was out on day release after the horrific murder of her niece – who had the mental age of a 15-year-old.

She said: “He is not a hero. He is a murderer out on day release, which us as a family didn’t know anything about. He murdered a disabled girl. He is not a hero, absolutely not.

They let him out without even telling us. Any of my family could have been in London and just bumped into him.”

Angela described how a police liaison officer had called her yesterday asking if she was aware of the London incident before revealing Ford had been captured on TV.

The still-heartbroken aunt said the officer told her “don’t worry” before saying Ford was at the scene and “being classed as a hero”.

Former factory worker Ford has never revealed his motive for killing Amanda.

At the time of his jailing, a judge told him: “What you did was an act of wickedness.

“You clearly have an interest in the macabre and also an obsession with death including murder by throat cutting.”

On to people who should be classed properly as heroes, we have the Polish kitchen porter employed at Fishmongers’ Hall who allegedly grabbed the narwhal tusk. By December 3, it transpired that Lukasz Koczocik was indeed one of the pursuers, but not the man brandishing the tusk. Lukasz was the man with the pike. The attacker stabbed him five times. Fortunately, the heroic kitchen worker was released from hospital on Saturday. He has been nominated for an official honour in Poland:

It seems the tusk got broken:

Not surprisingly, questions arose about the terrorist’s early release:

As with Labour (1997-2010), the Conservative government has had its part to play in law and order failures:

You can see from the following that Usman Khan did not act alone in 2010. Several other men were involved, some released since their 2012 conviction:

On that basis, I do wonder if police did the right thing in saying they are not looking for other suspects at this time with regard to Friday’s incident.

Again, what about the attack in the Netherlands that day? This RT article has one description of the suspect; Euronews has another. Dutch police said then there is no terrorist motive. On November 30, with a suspect in custody, they said it is ‘too early to speculate’ as they are investigating ‘several scenarios’.

Perhaps these statements are meant to keep the public calm while police investigate further.

Yet, we find time and time again that terrorism is the motive and that, especially in France, more than one person is involved somewhere along the line.

Sentencing and law enforcement soundbites should be reviewed.

Cambridge University was not left unscathed Friday afternoon. Sadly, one of their employees, Jack Merritt, was the first fatality. My condolences go to his family and friends:

The Guardian reported:

Merritt worked as the course coordinator for Learning Together, a programme run by the University of Cambridge’s institute of criminology which had been running a course at Fishmongers’ Hall next to London Bridge on Friday.

Two people were killed and three were injured when 28-year-old Usman Khan launched a knife attack. Khan was arrested in December 2010 and released on licence in December 2018, wearing an electronic tag.

David Merritt posted on Twitter on Saturday: “My son, Jack, who was killed in this attack, would not wish his death to be used as the pretext for more draconian sentences or for detaining people unnecessarily.”

His words came as Boris Johnson, said the system of automatic release from prison was flawed.

A second Cambridge graduate, Saskia Jones, 23, also died in the attack. My condolences to her family and friends at this difficult time.

This was the Prime Minister’s column for the Mail on Sunday:

The early release of dangerous prisoners — terrorists, murderers and the like — needs a thorough rational, not emotional, discussion.

Many of us have been wanting this for several years.

If not now, when?

How many more people, including those who advocate for prisoners, will have to die?

On Tuesday, November 19, 2019, ITV showed the first debate of the election campaign.

Supporters of smaller political parties criticised ITV for inviting only Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, but, in reality, only one of the two will be Britain’s next PM:

At that point, a week before Remembrance Day (hence the poppies), the Liberal Democrats’ Jo Swinson was confident she had a real chance at becoming PM:

Although Conservatives believed Boris should have been harder hitting on Labour policies, he probably pulled back because a) this was early in the campaign and b) he wanted to help convince undecided or low-information voters that Conservatives have the better policies.

Afterwards, ITV News reported on the highlights (emphases mine):

In the opening exchanges, the prime minister warned the UK faced more “dither and delay” under a Labour government.

He said a vote for the Conservatives would be a vote to finally “get Brexit done”.

“If you vote for us, we have a deal that is ready to go. Approved by every one of the 635 Conservatives candidates standing at this election,” he said.

As soon as we can get that deal through Parliament, as we can in the next few weeks, we can get on with the people’s priorities.”

But Mr Corbyn retorted that he could not deliver on what he was promising.

“That idea that the Prime Minister Boris Johnson’ deal can be dealt with and finished by the end of January is such nonsense,” he said.

“What he is proposing is a trade deal which will take at least seven years to negotiate whilst at the same time saying he will negotiate a special trade deal with the European Union.

“The two things are actually incompatible.”

Also:

Mr Corbyn’s shifted focus onto the NHS, claiming the service would be part of trade negotiations with the US.

Mr Corbyn accused the prime minister of conducting “secret meetings” with the US about the NHS and a future trade deal.

The Labour leader said: “What we know of what Mr Johnson has done is a series of secret meetings with the United States in which they were proposing to open up our NHS markets as they call them to American companies.”

To this claim, Mr Johnson replied: “I’m amazed how often this comes up.”

Mr Johnson insisted: “This is an absolute invention, it is completely untrue, there are no circumstances whatever that this Government or any Conservative Government would put the NHS on the table in any trade negotiations.”

That was the week after Prince Andrew’s disastrous interview on the BBC, which had aired the previous Saturday evening. Moderator Julie Etchingham asked the two leaders about the monarchy. I have highlighted what the PM said, because it has been often misquoted since:

Asked if the monarchy is fit for purpose, Mr Corbyn simply replied: “It needs a bit of improvement.”

Mr Johnson answered: “The institution of the monarchy is beyond reproach,”

Ms Etchingham then asked if Prince Andrew is fit for purpose.

Mr Corbyn highlighted how sympathies should be with Jeffrey Epstein’s victims, which Mr Johnson echoed.

Boris never said the monarchy was beyond reproach, meaning individual royals. He remarked on the institution itself.

Corbyn, who has been repeatedly accused of downplaying anti-Semitism in his party, which, oddly, has been rampant since he took over as leader in 2016, brought up Jeffrey Epstein. As everyone following the scandal knows, his surname is pronounced ‘Ep-steen’, but Corbyn deliberately pronounced it ‘Ep-shtein’, putting real emphasis on it.

The former editor-in-chief of The Independent, Simon Kelner, wrote an editorial about it for the i paper, ‘Conscious or not, Jeremy Corbyn’s mispronunciation of Jeffrey Epstein’s name matters to British Jews’. Too right it does:

The question, which we can be sure will never be answered, is this: did Corbyn do it, consciously or unconsciously (they’re both as bad as each other, by the way), to make Epstein sound just a little more sinister and foreign and, relevantly in the context, more Jewish? It’s hard to come up with an answer that doesn’t make the Labour leader appear either malevolent or incompetent. Given the wall-to-wall media coverage devoted to the scandal over recent days, it stretches credulity to suggest that Corbyn hadn’t heard Epstein’s name pronounced correctly multiple times.

it was a very emphatic delivery – is something else entirely, and Corbyn had to go out of his way to summon up the mittel-European pronunciation

I am more of a pedant than I am an anti-Semite hunter, but my synapses were twitching on both counts. I have a high threshold for anti-Semitism, and I have never thought that there was a prima facie case against Corbyn in this respect. In fact, I share some of his views on the politics of the Middle East. But this definitely pulled me up short. Having just watched his epically short-tempered interview with Krishnan Guru-Murthy on Channel 4, which was filmed in 2015 but went viral this week, it made me wonder whether Corbyn might just be, to borrow [the BBC’s] Eddie Mair’s epithet about Boris Johnson, a nasty piece of work.

While the mispronunciation of Epstein’s name may not be viewed by the majority of viewers as overtly anti-Semitic, it definitely had a nasty edge. No one is offended on Epstein’s behalf (that would be ludicrous), but if I found it offensive, many, many other Jewish people would have found it more so

Whether I am reading too much into a slip of the tongue is open for debate. But what is not in question is that Jeremy Corbyn should be doing all he can to persuade Jewish voters that, on anti-Semitism, he doesn’t just talk the talk. And what he did here was, apart from anything else, very bad politics.

More on this follows below.

Members of the audience were allowed to ask questions:

The debate ended with a hypothetical question from an audience member about what Christmas presents the two leaders would give each other:

Before their closing remarks, the prime ministerial hopefuls were asked what Christmas presents they would buy for each other.

Mr Corbyn said: “I know Mr Johnson likes a good read, so what I would probably leave under the tree for him would be A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and he could then understand how nasty Scrooge was.”

Responding, Mr Johnson said: “I would probably leave a copy – since you want a literary reference – a copy of my brilliant Brexit deal.”

Pressed by host Ms Etchingham to give a non-political answer, Mr Johnson said: “Mr Corbyn shares my love of plants and trees. I think maybe some damson jam,” to which Mr Corbyn said: “I love damson jam.”

At that point, Boris walked over to Corbyn and invited him to shake hands. It was a spontaneous moment, and it’s a pity that ITV did not report on it. Viewers could see Corbyn backing away from Boris with his outstretched hand. After seconds of hesitation, he extended his own for a limp handshake. Boris’s was much heartier.

What did the general public think? Interestingly, the result was similar to that for the Brexit referendum, which was 52% to 48%:

Leaders of the two main parties take part in debates like tonight’s, in part, to try to win over undecided voters.

A YouGov snap poll suggested 51% of Britons believed Mr Johnson won the debate compared to 49% for Mr Corbyn.

Those who answered “don’t know” were removed from the result, with YouGov adding the figures are so close as to be within the margin of error.

ITV’s political editor Robert Peston told news presenter Alastair Stewart that Jeremy Corbyn needed this debate to present a positive game-changer for Labour, who were trailing in the polls then and continue to do so now. Peston said that it was a draw. People who want Brexit done will vote for Boris. People who are worried about the NHS will vote for Corbyn:

Tom Harwood, who works for Guido Fawkes, said that Labour missed a trick with their claim that the Conservatives would ‘sell the NHS’ to President Trump:

Interestingly, our EU negotiator for Brexit, Michel Barnier, noticed another of Harwood’s tweets — and ‘liked’ it:

Dear me. Whatever next?

Well, the Labour-supporting newspaper, The Mirror, did not exactly go overboard in favour of Corbyn’s performance. Then, again, Prince Andrew was still making the headlines:

At the weekend, the polls remained static. More than one person thought this was because of the anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. They are the only other political party other than the extreme British National Party to be investigated for it. Shameful:

One week later — Tuesday, November 26 — Corbyn appeared on the BBC for an evening interview with veteran broadcaster Andrew Neil. He looked tired, ‘low energy’ (to borrow a Trumpism) and cranky. Neil took him to town on anti-Semitism, forcing him to admit nearly everyone in Britain would be poorer under Labour as well as false claims about the Conservatives wanting to sell the NHS to Trump:

It was generally agreed that, only days after Prince Andrew managed to give one of the all-time worst interviews on television, Corbyn managed to rival him:

This is how bad it was:

These were some of the newspaper headlines on Wednesday:

Andrew Neil began by asking Corbyn if he thought a particular statement about ‘Rothschild Zionists’ was anti-Semitic. Corbyn refused to say, until after the fourth time Neil repeated it:

Guido Fawkes said (emphasis in the original):

Jeremy Corbyn had to be asked four times before admitting ‘Rothchild Zionists run Israel and world governments’ is an anti-Semitic trope. This’ll undoubtedly put the minds of 80% of British Jews to rest…

Corbyn offered no apology for the anti-Semitism in sections of the Labour Party. This video is subtitled:

Andrew Neil grilled Corbyn on taxing everyone more, not just the wealthy:

Neil exposed the fact that Labour’s costings make no sense. Where’s the money coming from? The reply is not an actual Corbyn quote, by the way:

Labour supporters accused Neil of interrupting Corbyn, but:

The Sun has an excellent summary of the interview:

The next morning, ITV’s Piers Morgan picked up Corbyn’s daft comment on ISIS:

The interview got very good ratings:

With regard to the NHS, Neil scored points there, too.

Even Barry Gardiner, the erudite, effete veteran Labour MP — technically a Labour candidate, now that we are approaching the election — couldn’t defend his leader to Andrew Neil with regard to his questionable statements about the Conservatives wanting to sell the NHS to the United States. This interview took place 24 hours later:

Guido Fawkes commented:

The second excruciating Andrew Neil interview Labour has had to go through took place last night, when Shadow Trade Secretary Barry Gardiner was shown up over Jeremy Corbyn’s blatant fibs to the electorate. Labour are banking on people not being bothered to read the 451 pages they produced. Unfortunately for them, Guido has

With this and snapping at a journalist for mentioning anti-Semitism, Gardiner has not been having a good media round…

Those interested can follow Guido’s link in his first paragraph to see the documents in question.

Jeremy Corbyn is talking a lot of nonsense not only on the NHS but everything else his party proposes.

One thing is for certain: so far, he has been a gift to the Conservatives.

On Friday, November 22, 2019, a special two-hour Question Time was broadcast.

Fiona Bruce, the show’s host, moderated a discussion involving questions from a live audience put forward to the four main party leaders in half-hour segments.

The programme began with Jeremy Corbyn. Nicola Sturgeon of the SNP followed. The last two were Jo Swinson of the Liberal Democrats and Boris Johnson of the Conservative Party.

It was really sad to see that Boris Johnson’s Conservatives are the only political party running on a pro-Brexit platform. Labour favour a watery Brexit with a second referendum. Jo Swinson said in a previous interview on ITV last week that in the (unlikely) event she became Prime Minister, she would revoke Article 50 all by herself on the first day. The SNP are all about Scottish independence and only the Scots can vote for them. They, too, oppose Brexit and would appeal to the EU to allow Scotland to join as a separate nation.

Who won?

On Saturday, November 23, The Express reported on a poll it conducted among readers. Not surprisingly, most participants thought that Boris won (emphases mine):

A total of 50 percent of people believed the Conservative leader stole the show, with less than a quarter of readers (23 percent) convinced Jeremy Corbyn won.

Of the 22,368 people who voted in the poll, 11,307 believed Boris Johnson won – versus just 4,816 people. who voted for Mr Corbyn.

Of the four candidates, Jo Swinson seemed the least popular, with just eight percent – 1,776 people – believing she won the debate.

In fact, more people said they didn’t know who won – with this option being chosen by 1,924 people.

Coming third was Nicola Sturgeon, who teased a “less formal” arrangement with Labour to stop Brexit and end austerity, with 2,545 votes for the SNP leader.

One commenter, ‘fitz’, said the Prime Minister managed to “scrape through” after a tough start.

They said: “Boris had a tough job, but he scraped through ok at the end.

“I do not have any doubts that he will win the election with a modest majority of MPs who will support him.”

I hope that proves to be the case.

Nicola Sturgeon

Nearly all the leaders received tough questions from the audience. Nicola Sturgeon seemed to receive fewer:

I was hoping someone would ask her more about Scotland being financially self-sufficient post-independence without English money provided through what is called the Barnett Formula and what plans she would have for a Scottish currency. The SNP believe they can continue to use the British pound!

But I digress.

Sturgeon was adamant that Scots alone could decide the fate of the Union, which has existed since 1707:

Sturgeon relaxed with a book on the way back to Scotland:

Jo Swinson

Jo Swinson got a verbal blast from a Brexit supporter. The Express reported on the exchange:

Catherine, the audience member, asked: “Is revoking Article 50 confirming to 17.4 million people that you think we’re stupid and don’t know what we voted for?”

The Lib Dem leader said: “You cannot accuse us of not being upfront about wanting to stop Brexit. We have been crystal clear about that from the very beginning.

“Not for one second do I think that means you or anyone like you is stupid. I think it means we disagree.

“I really want us to be in a situation in this country where we can disagree with each other, Catherine.”

Ms Swinson continued: “That means that you want to leave, and I don’t think that makes you a bad person.

“I want to remain in the EU and I hope you think that doens’t make me a bad one.”

The audience member shot back: “You can disagree with me but you lost.

“You don’t get to keep disagreeing with me.”

Well said, Catherine.

On Saturday morning, Chuka Umunna, former Labour MP, now a Lib Dem parliamentary candidate, was asked on a BBC radio programme about Swinson’s Question Time performance and the Lib Dem’s anti-Brexit policy. The Express reports:

Mr Umunna, who standing in the cities of London and Westminster constituency on December 12, insisted the Liberal Democrat position to revoke Article 50 was not a mistake, despite Ms Swinson facing a tough grilling by furious audience members on the special leaders debate last night. The Labour-turned-ChangeUK-turned-Lib Dem politician told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: “No, there’s been no mistake made on this policy.”

Mr Umunna added: “It’s absolutely clear – you can’t save the NHS and address the issues in it at the same time as not seeking to stop Brexit, not least because 10 percent of our doctors come from the EU, and 7 percent of our nurses come from the EU.”

What no one from any party has addressed is WHY we have so few British doctors and nurses these days. I do not have an answer myself.

Anyway, The Express article related another audience member’s blast at Swinson on the Question Time special:

Ms Swinson faced yet another awkward encounter when another audience member branded the plan to stop Brexit “undemocratic”.

An audience member said: “You are not saying we will go back to the people, you are unilaterally saying ‘Revoke it.’

It’s undemocratic from somebody who wishes the last three and a half years had never happened.”

A startled Ms Swinson responded by saying the Liberal Democrats had campaigned for a so-called people’s vote for the past three years without getting the support in the House of Commons.

Swinson also received a grilling about her voting record when she was an MP in the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition government from 2010-2015. Swinson voted ‘Aye’ to more Conservative policies than Conservative MPs did during those years:

The woman asking that question was no ordinary member of the general public. To some viewers, her face seemed very familiar. They were not wrong. The woman is an actress:

That did not go down well with some viewers, and, in my humble opinion, rightly so:

Returning to Jo Swinson, the questions did no favours for the Lib Dems:

Jeremy Corbyn

Right at the outset, Jeremy Corbyn received a verbal smackdown from a long haired, bearded man:

Then, one of Corbyn’s supporters chimed in:

Corbyn’s position on Brexit has been rather nebulous, so, someone asked him about it:

This is what Corbyn said:

Boris Johnson

Boris confirmed to Fiona Bruce and the audience that he had been watching the programme backstage.

The Left have been hammering at Boris for an alleged lack of integrity. Yet, I cannot think of a single politician who has told the truth 100% of the time. Anyway:

As in the United States with the 2016 election, the Left are alleging that Russia interfered in the Brexit referendum campaign. Before Parliament was dissolved, Boris declined to release an official report about it, saying that, customarily, the Prime Minister reviewed such documents over a matter of weeks rather than days:

Someone brought up former Conservative MP, Dominic Grieve, a muckraking Remainer:

Boris got many more difficult questions.

He handled them well. Here he is on education:

And on Brexit:

Many of the questions and remarks were not fair, because he was not a sitting MP for most of the time the Conservatives have been in government. He was Mayor of London during several of those years, a fact that he put forward to the audience. He also said that he has been Prime Minister for only 120 days!

Overall, he managed a conversational tone with everyone, no matter how obnoxious they were:

Nearly everyone is upset over the blatant bias that Fiona Bruce and Mentorn Productions show on Question Time. Therefore, people overall — outside of Leftist activists — empathised with Boris, such as this journalist:

Boris also got a boost from this viewer:

And these:

The Prime Minister was gracious afterwards:

Conclusion

Outside of the usual bias, the Question Time Leaders Special was good, because it is probably be the only time in this election campaign when party leaders will take questions from a live audience.

For those who would like to read more about the programme as it happened, see the Daily Mail (here and here) as well as The Guardian.

If there weren’t already a Magic Johnson, I would have given Boris that nickname.

Last week, Boris surged in a polling question that Survation fielded about the public’s preferred Prime Minister:

Jeremy Corbyn (red, Labour) and Jo Swinson (yellow, Lib Dems) are trailing miserably. Good!

About that result, Guido Fawkes said (emphasis in the original):

Boris has taken an even more commanding lead in Survation’s preferred Prime Minister polling. The PM is up six points on last month, with the Lib Dems crashing down to place Swinson behind Corbyn, who himself has fallen by two points.

This mirrors Deltapoll’s findings over the weekend that saw the Lib Dems tumble five points to just 11%. Ironically the Tories are worried that if Swinson’s party continues to plummet, the Remain vote won’t be split enough to win back key targets in metropolitan places like London…

Even better!

Here are two results from the weekend.

One model predicts a clear Conservative majority — provided, I would caution, that those who go out on Thursday, December 12 vote True Blue — Conservative:

Two other polls show the Conservatives sailing ahead. Again, nothing happens unless Conservative voters go and vote True Blue on December 12:

But, hold on, here’s a third, from Opinium. ‘Blair territory’ means a wipeout, as in 1997. Again, all depends on True Blue voters going out on December 12:

Going back to earlier in the month, on Tuesday, November 12, the Conservatives launched their first election video of the campaign. Given that this would have been scripted, Boris is a natural in front of the camera and makes this four-minute chat look spontaneous:

On Monday, November 18, a reliable commenter on Guido Fawkes had this to say about the Prime Minister (emphases mine):

One small problem with supranational empires such as the EU is that history tells us that they always, without exception, fail. The Roman Empire, Alexandra the Great, the Persian Empire, Genghis Khan, the Soviet Empire, Timur, the British Empire, the Third Reich, Napoleon, and so on. The reason they fail is because nationalism and patriotism are immensely powerful forces that cannot be overcome. No matter how much subjugation and assimilation is forced on people they will always fight against the imperialists.

A very good book about this effect is The Dream of Rome. It explains how even after hundreds of years of being Romans, with a united language, currency, government and legal system the people still fought and died to get their countries back. This book was written by Boris Johnson.

The very fact that the BBC hate Boris, portraying him as a bumbling idiot and doing everything they can to denigrate him is just brilliant for him. It proves that he is not an evil Globalist like they are.

Some people say that it is in the very nature of Boris that he is good at every job he is given, but it is only when he gets the top job that he excels. We saw this when he was a two term Mayor of London. He did the job brilliantly. The evidence for this is irrefutable, just look at the slow motion train wrecks of his predecessor, Ken Livingstone, and his successor, Sadiq Khan, who were both abject failures who failed to meet the challenges of the job. Those who were close to Boris during his tenure say that his especial brilliance was in putting teams together and getting them to work. Exactly what is needed from a leader in government.

Boris has amazing genes, both his parents are Oxford graduates who have achieved much with their lives. Boris too went to Oxford, winning a scholarship. He read Classics there, which is one of the most intellectually demanding courses and he was elected to be President of the Oxford Union. Boris speaks Latin, French and Italian fluently with good German and Spanish.

Then there are the books. Boris has eleven published books with a twelfth, on Shakespeare, due. His biography of Winston Churchill is especially incisive, readable and well thought of.

Boris is not how the Globalist press portray him. But then they are intellectual pygmies next to him, so he must give them a huge inferiority complex. He is the first true patriot we have had as Prime Minister since Margaret Thatcher. And he is almost certainly the best person in Britain for the job.

I fully agree.

Boris has genuine appeal and energy combined with self-effacement and humour. I met him once in 2001 when he was campaigning to become MP for Henley, a constituency in Oxfordshire that he represented very well indeed. Along with a friend of mine, I chatted with Boris for several minutes. He was humble, self-effacing and ineffably courteous, yet, resolute.

He has done much in his career, both as the editor of The Spectator — which has gone downhill since then — and as a politician.

He brought back a newish Brexit deal from Brussels. Everyone said it could not be done, but he did it. No one gives him credit for his time as Foreign Secretary under Theresa May. However, that post gave him an entry point for negotiating with the EU.

Let’s have another couple of Stefan Rousseau’s excellent photographs for the PA (Press Association) to lead us out in a positive mood:

Boris Johnson will seek to represent the country’s best interests and I hope that the voters of his current constituency, Uxbridge & South Ruislip in west London, re-elect him as their MP, so that he can continue his quest as Prime Minister to put the Great back into Britain.

Stefan Rousseau is a photographer for the PA (Press Association).

He makes an art out of photography, the way someone working a camera should. His images have all the depth of painted portraits.

Rousseau has been following Prime Minister Boris Johnson on the campaign trail. Below are some of his most recent photos. Note the use of light and composition in each.

This last one taken at Castle Cary in Somerset is simply outstanding:

As the old saying goes:

Every picture tells a story.

Stefan Rousseau is a gifted photographer bringing those stories to life.

Yesterday’s post was about the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, a historic and happy occasion, to put it mildly.

However, while reunification has not been easy, the relationship between the western and eastern regions of Germany has been a historically uneasy one in some ways.

James Hawes, the author of The Shortest History of Germany, on sale in 20 different countries, wrote a short but information-packed article for UnHerd: ‘It wasn’t the Berlin Wall that divided Germany’. It is well worth reading. Even though I took World History in school, there is much here about Germany that I did not know.

A summary with excerpts follows. Emphases mine.

In the Middle Ages, as the Church was gaining adherents in the western half of what we know as Germany, the eastern half was comprised of pagan tribes. The river Elbe was the demarcation line between these two groups of people:

While early medieval western Europe was developing its unique signature, the power-sharing of international Church and national-state, the lands beyond the river Elbe were still populated by pagan, illiterate tribes. No real attempt was made to exert German control and settlement beyond that point until 1147; Cologne had already been a flourishing western European city for 1,200 years when the first German conqueror-farmers reached Berlin.

… East of the Elbe, the Germans never entirely supplanted the Slavs (some, the Sorbs, remain even in the truncated eastern Germany of today, just north of Dresden).

Hence the importance of subsequent Prussian rule and influence over the East:

The Germans of the east came to accept rule by a caste of warlords — the famous Prussian Junkers — and, later, the new Lutheran paradigm of a state which controlled its very own Church and against which there was hence no appeal.

Not for nothing did Friedrich Hayek see Prussia as the template for all modern totalitarian states, whether of the Left or of the Right. Max Weber constantly referred to a place he called Ostelbien, East Elbia, palpably different, for all its local variation, to ciselbian, western Germany.

Once suffrage was granted, voting patterns were very different between these two regions:

Of course, psychologists, philosophers and sociologists can all be wrong and often are. Electoral maps, however, do not lie. They show that ever since Germans have had votes, eastern Germans have voted very differently from western Germans.

Under the German Empire (1871-1918), the Prussian Conservatives — conservative in this context meaning supporters of royal and militarist rule under an agrarian Junker elite — depended almost completely on votes from the East, having scarcely any traction at all in the West.

The First World War changed nothing. In the first normal elections of the Weimar Republic, the extreme Prussian conservatives of the DNVP (officially anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic, violently antidemocratic, their members implicated in several high-profile political murders) were the second largest party nationally but — exactly as with the AfD today — that position was entirely dependent on votes from the East.

And when the deluge finally came in 1933 it was, again, only thanks to heavy votes in the East that Hitler got 43.9% nationally, enabling him (with support from the rump DNVP) to seize power by semi-constitutional means. If the whole country had voted like the Rhineland or Munich, he could only have attempted an armed coup, which the Army would have crushed.

Such patterns have continued to the present day, with nationalist and populist parties more popular in the east than the west.

Further disparity has resulted economically, from the western regions propping those up on the east:

well over €2 trillion has been pumped from Western taxpayers to the East. The so-called Reunification has dragged West Germany back into the role which Bismarck assigned it: to subsidise the economically moribund East because it is their patriotic duty.

Western German voters, rather sick of this, are more and more wary of keeping up this settlement, on top of their traditional role as paymasters of the stable Europe from which German industry benefits so greatly. Yet the Prussian myth of “reunification” has trumped economic reality, which goes to show something we in Britain should know all too well: that there is nothing worse for a country than to misunderstand its own history …

The founder of West Germany, Conrad Adenauer, knew his history. After the First World War he begged the French and British to help him split Prussia off from Germany. When he had to visit Berlin, he would always draw the curtains of his train compartment as he crossed the fatal River Elbe, muttering “Here we go, Asia again!” (“Schon wieder Asien!”) After the second war, though obliged in public to support re-unification, he told the British most secretly that he was determined it should never happen.

To top it all off, both sides of Germany also have a different opinion on the EU, a further source of friction, according to German journalist Sabine Beppler-Spahl in ‘After the Berlin Wall: whither democracy’:

Sabine Beppler-Spahl explains that the calls for reunification of Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall were as surprising as the fall of the Wall itself in 1989. The GDR was the German Democratic Republic — East Germany:

It is true that the first banners demanding reunification only appeared after the wall fell, and the GDR had all but collapsed. But that was because of the great dangers involved in demanding reunification in the GDR while it still existed. Hence the original protest slogan was ‘Wir sind das Volk’ (‘We are the people), which was directed at the GDR’s Stalinist government. But from mid-November onwards, it changed to ‘Wir sind ein Volk’ (‘We are one people’), which was directed at the establishment in the West. Soon calls for reunification became so powerful that they could no longer be ignored.

In calling for reunification, people were demanding rights that had been withheld for decades. These included an end to the command economy, with all its hardships, and above all, democracy. When the first free elections were held in March 1990, an impressive 93.4 per cent of the population in the old East took part – which remains the highest ever turnout in any free election in Germany. East Germans didn’t need to be convinced of the virtues of civil liberty and democracy. That’s because, as political scientist Robert Rohrschneider put it in 1999, they knew what it meant to live in an authoritarian system (1).

One of the most amazing aspects of 1989 was that, across Europe, few in power expected it. ‘Of course we said that we believed in reunification, because we knew that it would never happen’, said former UK prime minister Edward Heath in 1989. When reunification did appear on the popular agenda, it became apparent how large and diverse the opposition to it was. It included the most unlikely of allies, from prominent former East German civil-rights activists (2) and the West German SPD and Green Party, to many Western European heads of state.

The Greens were against reunification and wanted reform of the GDR instead:

Several former East German dissidents, like Bärbel Bohley, campaigned for reform of the GDR system. She and others identified with the environmentalist and anti-consumerist rhetoric of the West German Green Party, which was very successful during the 1980s. The Greens, like large sections of the West German Social Democrats and others, identified with Stalinism more than they liked to admit. They were turned off by the sight of so many people demanding democracy and an end to the command economy. So they became supporters of the status quo. ‘We were anti-nationalists’, explained former Green Party leader Ralf Fücks in 2015.

That should tell you something about why opponents to the Greens call them the ‘watermelon party’ — green on the outside, red on the inside.

That said, Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister at the time, also opposed reunification. So did France’s Socialist president, François Mitterand:

Outside of Germany, the speed and turn of events also prompted apprehension. On 28 November, [Chancellor Helmut] Kohl presented his ’10-point programme for the formation of a contractual community’ (effectively, a plan for German reunification). The then British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, who had made no secret of her hostility to reunification, quickly demanded that any talk of a united Germany should be postponed for at least five to 10 years (3). French president François Mitterrand informed a group of journalists that he considered German reunification a ‘legal and political impossibility’. A reunited Germany ‘as an independent, uncontrolled power was unbearable for Europe’, he concluded.

The then-US president George HW Bush — Bush I — was Chancellor Kohl’s greatest ally:

With Western Europe’s most powerful states opposed to reunification, Kohl’s most reliable ally became US president George HW Bush. As journalist Elizabeth Pond wrote, the US played a decisive role in reversing the resistance of the British and French. There was, however, one condition placed on German reunification – it was to take place within the European Community.

Although reunification took place on October 3, 1990, it did not happen overnight. The terms of the controversial Maastricht Treaty, signed in 1992, were the only way France would agree to a formally reunified Germany:

The most far-reaching part of Maastricht – and the most contested within Germany itself – was the decision to create a monetary union, with a common currency, namely, the Euro. According to historians Andreas Rödder and Heinrich August Winkler, Kohl accepted that a reunified Germany would have to enter a monetary union in order to win support for reunification from France. It was a concession that came at a price for the French, too. It meant the French state was also to be bound to the fiscal rules and regulations of the EU. As French political scientist Anne-Marie Le Goannec explains in L’Allemagne Après la Guerre Froide, it was France’s admiration for the ‘German Model’ that helped Kohl push through the fiscal rules of the EU. Maastricht, however, was unpopular from the start. And in a referendum held in France in September 1992, only 50.8 per cent voted in favour of it.

Whereas the French public were consulted over Maastricht, the Germans had no say:

Maastricht was also unpopular in Germany. Unlike the French electorate, however, the German electorate was never consulted. The absence of any public vote was compounded by the weakness of the opposition SPD, which had never recovered from its position on reunification. It meant that Kohl’s government was given a free hand to reunify Germany as a part of the European Union.

Although most Germans approved of Maastricht when Kohl’s government ratified it, by the mid-1990s, sentiment had changed dramatically:

Admittedly, support for a united Europe had been high in the early 1990s, especially in the former GDR, where over 85 per cent were in favour, compared with 70 per cent in the former West. By 1996, however, support had dropped to 35 per cent in the east and 40 per cent in the west (4). Christopher J Andersen, a professor of political science at New York State University, attributes the sharp drop-off in enthusiasm for the EU to the job losses and economic problems that plagued the former East German economy (5).

In brief, reunification under EU rules brought about years of change that no one had expected:

It wasn’t just the abolition of the well-loved Deutsche Mark, pushed through by Kohl, which annoyed so many Germans. Other deeply unpopular policy measures, which would probably have been rejected by the electorate, if they’d ever been asked, included: the expansion of the EU; the free movement of cheap labour from impoverished eastern Europe (leading to wage depression); the German military intervention in the Yugoslav war; the handling of the Greek debt crisis; and the temporary loss of control over borders. Again and again the structures of the EU have allowed different German governments to ignore the opinions of the electorate and pursue unpopular policies.

This year, the East has shown that it sees reunification differently to the West and is reacting against the EU:

The Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party has led three successful election campaigns in the former East German states of Brandenburg and Saxony (in September 2019) and Thuringia (October 2019), using the slogan, ‘Vollende die Wende’ (‘complete reunification’). The slogan was widely criticised in the media. ‘People are told to go back on to the streets, like they did in 1989, and bring the system down’, said one journalist on a programme entitled How the AfD has appropriated reunification. Elsewhere, an open letter, written by a group of former GDR civil-rights activists, accused the AfD of ‘historical lies’. But the AfD can also point to several former dissidents who sympathise with it. And so the battle over the meaning of 1989, which is simultaneously about today’s politics, is set to continue.

No doubt some Germans living in the East would agree with another article from UnHerd, ’10 things I hate about Germany’, which discusses various economic and political policies from Angela Merkel. EU-loving Britons point to Germany as the be-all and end-all, the role model to which we must look up. Ultimately:

the Germans may be no worse than we are, but they’re certainly no better.

I could not agree more.

Germany is a great place to visit. The German people I’ve met have been courteous and friendly. The architecture is fabulous. Shopping is excellent.

However, no EU nation is a be-all and end-all — not under Brussels and the Maastricht system.

It is a pleasure to report that Sir Lindsay Hoyle is the new Speaker of the House:

Sir Lindsay, the Lancastrian

Sir Lindsay is the MP for Chorley in Lancashire. His election as Speaker means that his seat in Chorley is traditionally uncontestable, just as John Bercow’s was in Buckingham. So, there is no point in Hoyle’s constituents voting on December 12. Furthermore, the residents of Chorley, as was true for Buckingham, essentially have no MP to represent them:

Unlike a number of MPs, the new Speaker was a businessman before entering politics:

Rumour has it that the Speaker is empathetic towards Brexit:

On a personal, and sad, note, in his acceptance speech, he mentioned his late daughter:

Lindsay Hoyle declared his candidacy for Speaker shortly after John Bercow announced he would be standing down and retiring — probably because the Conservatives announced they would be fielding a candidate in Buckingham, a break with tradition:

Sir Lindsay enjoyed watching the Rugby World Cup final (England v South Africa) on Saturday:

Some compared that photo to Whistler’s Mother:

As the Times is behind a paywall, I couldn’t read the article. Even though the Speaker is Labour, my greatest concern is ‘tone’ policing. A few weeks ago, Bercow criticised Prime Minister Boris Johnson for replying to a strident Labour MP with the words ‘humbug’ and ‘Surrender Act’. I hope that the new Speaker will use common sense, although I have seen him follow the Bercow line with Conservatives. We shall see.

As for his style, Hoyle seems to have been calm, cool and collected.

That said, in the past, during his time as a Deputy Speaker, he can restore order. The following clips are not in chronological order and the best part comes in the second half, from the time that Alex Salmond was still an SNP MP. A prolonged confrontation ensued:

Sir Lindsay said he would bring back the traditional Speaker’s garb, but only on ‘traditional days’. I have no idea what this means, other than the State Opening of Parliament, but we shall see in due course:

Guido Fawkes has the soundbite from Radio 4’s Today Programme (emphases in the original):

New speaker Lindsay Hoyle told the Today Programme this morning that he will be bringing back the Speaker’s wig and assorted regalia on big parliamentary occasions.

“On traditional days, of course. You have to wear dress that is suitable for that day.”

Bercow’s legacy being unwound piece by piece…

Speaker candidates reflected a new style, not Bercow’s

In watching Monday’s session, which began at 2:30 and ended around 9:50 p.m., I was struck at how many candidates for Speaker mentioned that they would speak less — and call on more backbenchers, not just the more prominent ones.

Surely, that was not John Bercow’s style.

As I mentioned yesterday, the Father of the House, Kenneth Clarke, presided over the election for Speaker. He is retiring after over three decades as an MP. He was also Chancellor for the Exchequer under John Major and remains a Europhile:

He was the sort of MP one either loved or loathed:

During my Europhile years, I thought Ken Clarke was terrific. Once I began reading more about the European Commission and the goings-on in Brussels, I changed my mind. But I digress.

There were four rounds of voting on Monday, and the session started with all the candidates giving short and sweet speeches. A BBC Parliament pundit commenting on proceedings observed that when Bercow presented his candidacy ten years ago, he spoke for ten minutes!

This was the list of candidates. Only two are Conservative: Deputy Speaker Dame Eleanor Laing and Sir Edward Leigh. The others are Labour MPs. Sir Lindsay and Dame Rosie Winterton also entered the candidacy as Deputy Speakers.

My preferred candidate was Dame Eleanor, with Sir Lindsay as second choice:

Those watching at home hoped that Harriet Harman, the Mother of the House as she is the longest serving female MP, would fail dismally:

Ms Harman is on the left in the photo below:

Harman did not do very well in the first round of voting …

… but she survived for a second round, unlike Meg Hillier and Edward Leigh:

This is why the election took a long time:

Harriet Harman’s votes decreased in the second round, and she withdrew. Dame Rosie Winterton, a pleasant Deputy Speaker, was automatically eliminated:

In the third round, Dame Eleanor was automatically eliminated. This is an interesting result, because Chris Bryant is actually an Anglican priest, although he has not had a clerical position for many years. He withdrew from parish life because of his homosexuality and got into politics instead, as he said on The Wright Stuff many years ago. However, Bryant certainly learned at seminary to speak effectively to the public. That is why I think he did so well:

Many of us hope that Dame Eleanor, if re-elected in December, will receive a nice position once Parliament reconvenes. In any event, she was Deputy Speaker on Tuesday afternoon after Sir Lindsay finished his first few hours as Speaker:

A fourth round of voting took place:

with Sir Lindsay emerging as the winner with 325 votes. Chris Bryant received 213.

He had cross-party support from the beginning:

A Conservative candidate lent his support after bowing out:

Unfortunately, I was unable to see Sir Lindsay’s acceptance speech and what the two party leaders said to him. Every time I tuned into BBC Parliament, there was a recording of the House of Lords. By the time I tuned in again, the House — and new Speaker — were already in the House of Lords for the formal ceremony. Bad timing on my part, no doubt, but BBC Parliament’s banner said to tune in at 9:20 p.m.

In the event, the result was in at 8:30. Henry Deedes of the Daily Mail wrote (emphases mine):

The result came just before 8.30pm. When it was announced, Sir Lindsay blew out his cheeks. Lisa Nandy (Lab, Wigan) patted his arm warmly. Nigel Evans and Caroline Flint shared the honours in dragging him to the chair. Outside, the bongs of Big Ben sounded again as the old bell was tested ahead of its appearance at Remembrance Sunday. Parliament is finally ringing the changes.

It is interesting that many people are now breathing an audible sign of relief that John Bercow is gone.

However, some journalists, such as Dan Hodges, had been doing so for a long time:

Tradition still applies

Certain traditions still apply for a new Speaker of the House.

From the Middle Ages until the Glorious Revolution in 1688-1689, the position of Speaker was to voice the concerns of Parliamentarians to the King. Often, they opposed the King, and the Speaker represented those views to the monarch.

Therefore, the role of Speaker was potentially dangerous. For those reasons, those elected did not always want to serve, so a tradition grew up around past Speakers being dragged up to the chair. The winning candidate also used to say that he was unable to fulfil the role, because they potentially risked their lives. I am not sure if Sir Lindsay said this. I have not seen any reports of it.

Here he is being dragged to the Speaker’s chair after the Father of the House read the result:

You can see a photo on the left of him being dragged from the Labour benches:

Standing by the Speaker’s chair, but not yet sitting in it, he said:

I will be neutral. I will be transparent.

This House will change but it will change for the better.

I stand by what I said, I stand firm, that I hope this House will be once again a great respected House, not just in here but across the world.

It’s the envy and we’ve got to make sure that tarnish is polished away, that the respect and tolerance that we expect from everyone who works in here will be shown and we’ll keep that in order.

The Prime Minister offered his congratulations. Some journalists view the word ‘kindness’ below as a dig at Bercow:

I believe you will also bring your signature kindness, kindness and reasonableness to our proceedings, and thereby to help to bring us together as a Parliament and a democracy.

Because no matter how fiercely we may disagree, we know that every member comes to this place with the best of motives, determined to solve, to serve the oldest Parliamentary democracy in the world.

And to achieve our goals by the peaceable arts of reason and debate invigilated by an impartial Speaker, which was and remains one of our greatest gifts to the world.

Also:

After long, happy years of dealing with you… whenever any of us is preparing to speak in this chamber, we all know there is a moment between standing up and when the Speaker calls you when your heart is in your mouth.

And in that moment of anxiety, about whether you’re going to make a fool of yourself and so on, and indeed at the moment when we sit down amid deafening silence, the kindliness of the Speaker is absolutely critical to our confidence and the way we behave.

And Mr Speaker, over the years I have observed that you have many good qualities, and I’m sure you will stick up for backbenchers in the way that you have proposed, and I’m sure that you will adhere to a strict Newtonian concept of time in PMQs.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition, said:

The job of Speaker is not just a ceremonial one. It is about the rights of backbenchers to be able to speak up.

It is about the power of Parliament to hold the government to account. That is the whole principle and point of a parliamentary democracy, that we have a strong Parliament that can hold the executive to account. And I know you will stand up for that principle because that is what you believe in.

Ceremony of Approbation in the House of Lords

The main ceremony came in the House of Lords, the ceremony of Approbation.

In absentia, the Queen had placed her seal on Sir Lindsay’s election as Speaker. I do not know how they got it to the Palace so quickly, but someone who had been involved in a past Speaker’s election told BBC Parliament that they had two parchments ready, each with the name of one of the final two candidates. The parchment with the name of the winner was immediately despatched to Buckingham Palace for the Queen’s approval.

I wish I had a video to share of the ceremony in the House of Lords, because it was really rather grand.

Afterwards, the Speaker returned to the House, escorted by the Sergeant at Arms. MPs reconvened. The Speaker moved to adjourn for the day, receiving an enthusiastic number of ‘Ayes’.

Historical notes

During the first round of voting, the panel on BBC Parliament discussed various Speakers from history as well as traditions regarding their dress.

The Archbishop of Canterbury could get involved with the appointment, or otherwise, of a Speaker:

Correct. I do not remember who that Speaker-elect was, nor the King, but it happened centuries ago.

The BBC Parliament panel also discussed the tradition of wigs and robes. Whilst both were commonplace as dress centuries ago, as time went on, although normal street attire approached what we know today, the wigs and robes stayed on to represent a particular office, e.g. judge, Speaker.

They also pointed out that the wig a Speaker wears is different to that of a judge. The same goes for the formal Speaker’s robe with the gold trim, which a judge would not wear.

It seems that, for everyday wear, recent Speakers, from Betty Boothroyd in the 1990s to the present, have worn a judge’s gown. Mrs Boothroyd did away with the wig as it was dirty, or so we heard on BBC Parliament. In reality, I suspect that Mrs Boothroyd did not want to ruin her elegant bouffant.

Incidentally, Mrs Boothroyd was in the Public Gallery yesterday. She celebrated her 90th birthday a few weeks ago. She has been our only woman Speaker thus far. More about her perhaps in another post.

Final note on Bercow

As for John Bercow, the Daily Mail reported that, earlier on Monday:

Mr Bercow formalised his departure from the Commons today by becoming ‘Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead’.

That is the traditional way of standing down as an MP, as they are not allowed to resign from office directly. 

Conclusion

Already today — Tuesday — the Speaker chose backbenchers whom I have not seen before to speak.

The subsequent readings and Committee Stage of the long-awaited bill regarding compensation to victims of institutional child abuse in Northern Ireland decades ago have passed the House in the final hours of this Parliament, which comes to an end at 00:01 on November 6:

Looking ahead, I am hoping for great things in Parliament once it reconvenes on December 16.

Before I continue with the surprise ending the exiting Speaker of the House John Bercow received during an afternoon of nauseating tributes, this is what happened today in Parliament:

I’m writing this post before the session begins, but, note how late Monday sittings start — rarely before 2:30 p.m. Parliament does not meet on Fridays, either, so it’s a nice long weekend for all concerned.

Also note that there will be no prayers from the chaplain, as the House of Commons is in transition with regard to clergy. The outgoing chaplain will be appointed as Bishop of Dover later this month. She is in the photo on the left in red. The newest Sergeant at Arms, originally from Nigeria, carries the mace:

Someone responding to the House of Commons tweet lamented that no prayers were being said:

I think a few Prayers are needed before the Election of a New Speaker Clearly none were said during the last election.

I agree.

Apparently, the new chaplain, a Catholic priest, has not yet started. However, I would have thought that Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Leader of the House, could have been in a position to say prayers.

Another issue looms. Bercow knew that an election was coming up on December 12, yet, he wanted his successor chosen now. Several MPs will not be standing for re-election, e.g. the Father of the House Kenneth Clarke, and many more, e.g. the Independents, risk losing their seats next month.

Therefore, it seems inappropriate for a departing House of Commons, led by an departing Father of the House to appoint a new Speaker. Parliament will be adjourning on November 6, by the way:

More on the new Speaker anon.

Now let’s return to Thursday, October 31. Bercow was lapping up the afternoon session, which MPs completely devoted to him.

Never mind any pending legislation that has to be completed by the end of the day on Tuesday. One looming bit of legislation concerns compensation to victims of child abuse in religious and state-run care homes in Northern Ireland. I have heard the testimony from some of these men, now in their 50s and 60s, and it is harrowing.

Labour MP Kate Hoey has served her London constituency of Vauxhall for many years and will retire (unless she runs for the Brexit Party), but she is from Northern Ireland originally. She was appalled by Thursday afternoon’s events:

Yes, Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen messed up Bercow’s delightful punchbowl by demanding the truth about a crooked, longstanding Labour MP for Leicestershire, Keith Vaz. Vaz represents Leicester East and Bridgen North West Leicestershire.

What a surprise ending for Bercow.

A report — an investigation into Keith Vaz’s activities — came out that day. Andrew Bridgen is holding it in his hand when he speaks. (You can see the name Keith Vaz on the cover.)

Bridgen told Bercow — ‘Mr Speaker’ — that he tried warning him about this in 2015. Bercow shot out of his chair and told Bridgen to sit down. Then he made out as if Bridgen was in the wrong: ‘I cannot help him’; ‘I fear he is beyond redemption’.

Interestingly, at this point, Bridgen had spoken for probably a total of two minutes. Bercow told him to sit down twice. As the video below shows, Bercow spoke for at least ten minutes. Near the end, Bercow gave him permission to speak for a third time but not ‘to dilate’ (go on at length):

Bridgen seized the opportunity, warning about public sentiment once the report on Vaz is released outside of Parliament:

Mr Speaker, to the fag end [cigarette butt] of your tenure, you are defending the indefensible and your very close relationship with the honourable Member in question [Vaz]. The House can come to its own conclusions. The Standards Committee has come to its own conclusions, and, Mr Speaker, the public will come to theirs. Thank you very much.

Political pundit Guido Fawkes put it this way:

At the end of the day, Bridgen tweeted and got a lot of compliments for speaking out:

The Mail on Sunday‘s Dan Hodges, who is the son of actress and former MP Glenda Jackson, agreed with Bridgen and the public. He got hammered for it:

However, not all comments were negative:

A Conservative MP also spoke up about Bercow’s conduct during his tenure:

Nothing will happen. Bercow denied allegations of bullying members of his staff and, as I wrote last week, that’s the end of the matter. Lucky for him. Yet, Bercow was the one telling Conservative MPs that they must be nice and moderate their language in Parliament when, in reality, it’s the opposition who are the strident ones. More on that in another post.

Returning to Andrew Bridgen’s short but sharp comments, let us look at the allegations about Keith Vaz, the Speaker’s personal friend. Wikipedia tells us (emphases mine):

Vaz served as the Minister for Europe between October 1999 and June 2001. He was appointed a member of the Privy Council in June 2006. He was Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee from July 2007, but resigned from this role on 6 September 2016 after the Sunday Mirror revealed he had engaged in unprotected sexual activity with male prostitutes and had said he would pay for cocaine if they wished to use it. At the end of October 2016, Vaz was appointed to the Justice Select Committee; a parliamentary vote to block this development was defeated.[1]

The Mirror, incidentally, is a Labour-supporting newspaper.

Further detail follows:

Allegations about Vaz were published by the British Sunday Mirror tabloid in early September 2016. It was reported that he had engaged in unprotected sexual activity with male prostitutes and had told them he would pay for cocaine if they wished to use it. He told the prostitutes that his name was Jim and that he was an industrial washing machine salesman.[60] Vaz later apologised for his actions.[61][62] “It is deeply disturbing that a national newspaper should have paid individuals who have acted in this way”, he said.[61][63] Vaz resigned as chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee on 6 September 2016.[64]

At the end of October 2016, Vaz was appointed to the Justice Select Committee, after he had put himself forward and was nominated by his party.[65] A House of Commons motion to block this development was defeated; they are rare on such an issue. According to Laura Hughes of The Daily Telegraph, Conservative Party whips told their MPs to vote for Vaz in the division to prevent a precedent being created of such appointments being rejected by MPs. Over 150 Conservative MPs voted in support of Vaz.[1] The Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen asked in the chamber of Vaz; “If the right honourable member for Leicester East found himself last month to be not fit to be chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee and the matters are unresolved, what makes him think that he is a fit and proper person this month?”[66]

The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Kathryn Hudson, has previously announced an investigation into Vaz’s conduct.[66] The Standards Commissioner’s investigation was halted “for medical reasons” in December 2017.[67] The inquiry recommenced in March 2018[68] and, in October 2019, the inquiry recommended that he be suspended from Parliament for six months.[69][70] On 31 October, MPs voted in favour of the suspension.[71]

I agree with Diane Abbott below (if only this time), but, if Labour had any moral compass at all, they would not allow Vaz to stand for re-election:

On November 7, 2018, the BBC published an article by Newsnight‘s editor Chris Cook, ‘How John Bercow keeps Keith Vaz’s secrets’. The article says that Bercow is exercising ‘parliamentary privilege’. Newsnight is a BBC weekday programme:

In the 17th century, England had a problem with laws on sedition. MPs could not speak freely about the king’s policies for fear of judges. To solve that problem, we adopted a special guard against tyranny: “parliamentary privilege”. Now, John Bercow, speaker of the House of Commons, has invoked it to stop Newsnight getting information about the behaviour of the MP Keith Vaz.

Bercow had the final say in the matter:

Mr Bercow has personally intervened and gone out of his way to bar Newsnight from asking the Information Commissioner or a judge to review the decision. We will not be able to overturn this decision, as journalists fought through the courts to get to see MPs’ expenses.

The core legal text here is the 1689 Bill of Rights. It states: “the Freedome of Speech and Debates or Proceedings in Parlyament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any Court or Place out of Parlyament” …

This is perhaps the most important legal change in England that came from the 1688-9 coup, dubbed by supporters “the Glorious Revolution”, when James II was replaced by the Dutch prince William of Orange and his wife Princess Mary. It is an important constitutional principle.

That is why MPs and peers can make allegations in the Commons or Lords without fear of libel law. When Lord Hain named Sir Philip Green as having obtained an injunction against the Daily Telegraph, he was deploying this right. Injunctions have no weight inside the walls of the debating chambers.

As Chris Cook explains, not everything is cut and dried in these matters, past and present. Recently, judges have had to intervene, as they did when the expenses scandal broke several years ago.

At the time Cook wrote the article, he focussed on Vaz’s expenses rather than the prostitution angle. Cook and his team tried to use the Freedom of Information Act to get details of Vaz’s trips abroad, but to no avail:

If the administration of MPs’ expenses is not covered by privilege, why should the administration of committee trips be? MPs are involved – but they oversaw expenses too. Could knowing which travel agent booked tickets for MPs be a route to power for a would-be tyrant? What is the threat to free speech?

Some months ago, Mr Bercow personally made the argument that this paperwork was all covered by privilege. But I looked forward to a tribunal when this could be tested.

It all got heavy handed, as Bercow pulled out all the stops to prevent Newsnight from getting access to information about Vaz:

Normally, this sort of determination can be referred to the Information Commissioner and then to the tribunals and courts to judge whether that finding is fair. My judgment is, if they did that, I had a reasonable chance of winning.

I suspect Mr Bercow agreed. That would explain why he has now used an unusual personal power to block any appeals.

This week, I was notified he has issued a “certificate” under section 34(3) of the Freedom of Information Act. This is, in effect, a personal release veto.

These sorts of vetos are supposed to be used sparingly – an emergency reserve power to guard sacred spaces if courts get it wrong.

That is because their use means I have no rights of appeal. The Information Commissioner’s view is that, since the certificate is genuine, that is the the end of the matter. Any appeal to the tribunals will automatically be discarded. I can ask a judge to review his decision, but it would entail looking at a decision taken by a parliamentary officer. That would hit privilege from another direction.

The net result is that the Speaker, who denies bullying, has made an order to hide information about the behaviour of his close personal friend, Keith Vaz, a man who also denies bullying – supposedly to protect MPs’ freedom of speech.

And then he has gone out of his way to use a personal veto to make sure no-one could even consider reviewing that questionable decision.

You can understand why staff are so suspicious about whether MPs will ever let themselves be judged by outsiders when it comes to bullying and harassment.

I have no confidence that Bercow’s conduct will be investigated, whether it concerns bullying, Brexit or Keith Vaz.

On a happier note, however, Andrew Bridgen hurried home to Leicestershire to end Thursday with what looks to have been an excellent curry:

More to follow on the new Speaker soon.

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