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On Monday, February 6, 2017, Queen Elizabeth II achieved what no other British monarch has: a Sapphire Jubilee.
The Queen acceded the throne 65 years ago, following the death of her father, King George VI.
Her Majesty celebrated the day privately at Sandringham Estate in Norfolk. She attended Sunday service at St Peter and St Paul in West Newton, Norfolk, where she greeted well wishers and accepted bouquets of flowers afterwards.
Military salutes were given in London on Monday. The Telegraph has photos and reported:
Royal gun salutes were staged in London on Accession Day, as is the tradition, with a 41-gun salute by the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery in Green Park at noon.
The Band of the Royal Artillery played a selection of celebratory music close to the firing position as 89 horses pulled six First World War-era 13-pounder field guns into position in the park.
A 62-gun salute by the Honourable Artillery Company was fired at the Tower of London at 1pm.
The photo above was taken in 2014. Buckingham Palace re-released it for the Sapphire Jubilee.
Sky News explains:
The picture was taken by the photographer David Bailey in 2014 for the GREAT campaign, a publicity campaign to promote Britain around the world.
In the photograph The Queen is wearing a suite of sapphire jewellery given to her by King George VI as a wedding present in 1947.
It was on the 6 February, 1952 that her father died while at Sandringham. Princess Elizabeth, who was 25, was in Kenya on a royal tour with her husband Prince Philip at the time.
Although no national celebrations are planned this year, the Royal Mint is issuing a set of commemorative coins. Royal Mail has released a £5 commemorative stamp in sapphire blue.
Two years ago, when the Queen became Britain’s longest-ever reigning monarch, she said that achieving that landmark was:
“not one to which I have ever aspired”.
She added: “Inevitably, a long life can pass by many milestones. My own is no exception.”
Those of us who treasure her give thanks and wish her well for many more years as our monarch.
As Her Majesty is approaching her 91st birthday this year, the Duke of Cambridge — Prince William — is taking on more official royal appearances on her behalf.
With regard to length of reign, Queen Victoria comes second in the list with 63 years. Then we go further back in history to George III, who ruled for 59 years, 96 days (1760-1820). James VI of Scotland served for 57 years, 246 days (1567-1625).
In fifth place — incredibly, given it that this was during the Middle Ages — is Henry III of England and Lord of Ireland, who reigned for 56 years and 29 days between 1216 and 1272.
Sorry to be late to the party with this item, but it was in our two-week Christmas issue of the Radio Times, Britain’s foremost television (and radio) guide.
In the 17-30 December 2016 issue, the back page interview was with Prime Minister Theresa May, also the MP for Maidenhead. She answered a variety of questions from reporter Michael Hodges. Excerpts and a summary follow.
On Christmas Day, she and her husband Philip go to church. Afterwards, they meet up with friends for a drink, then it’s off to an ecumenical lunch for the elderly, where May takes time to talk with her constituents.
The Mays return home where the Prime Minister roasts a goose for Christmas dinner. They haven’t had turkey for several years. Although others consider goose to be extremely fatty, May points out:
if you keep the fat, it makes wonderful roast potatoes for quite a long time thereafter.
Absolutely. We also have goose at Christmas, partly for that reason, and for the unctuous stock from the wings.
May, a practising Anglican, lent the Radio Times a photo of herself as a girl with her late father, the Revd Hubert Brasier. She told Michael Hodges what Christmas past was like:
Throughout my life I have been going to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve and church on Christmas Day morning. As a child I had to wait until my father had finished his services before I could open my presents.
It felt like a very long wait. Others I knew would be able to open their presents first thing in the morning.
I’m an only child and my mother played the organ. So I would sit alongside her while my father was taking the service.
The interview did not mention that May’s parents died within a year of each other. Her father died just as she completed her studies at Oxford and her mother several months later. It can’t have been easy for her, especially with no siblings for support:
When you first lose your parents, Christmas is hugely, hugely important. Now I enjoy Christmas with my husband Philip and we keep up the tradition of going to church. But, of course, it does remind me of my parents.
During her childhood, she watched only the BBC, until:
one day, my mother managed to jiggle the aerial and we got ITV and I saw Robin Hood. That music and Richard Greene as Robin Hood really grabbed me.
This is the iconic theme to which May refers:
May’s other television favourites included early series of The Avengers with Diana Rigg, then Joanna Lumley, although:
I have never had a female role model — I’ve always just got on with doing what I am doing.
As an adult, she watched the ‘very evocative’ Das Boot. These days, she enjoys Scandinavian dramas Borgen and The Bridge. Christmas Day favourites include Doctor Who and David Suchet as Poirot.
She doesn’t take recommendations for television viewing:
My advisers don’t tell me what to watch on the television — I watch what I want to watch.
May ended the interview by saying she had no idea a year ago that she would be Prime Minister today.
What follows is her four-minute New Year’s message. If her father was as eloquent a speaker as his daughter is, he must have been a splendid vicar. May speaks of the change that Brexit will bring this year but also of the unity of the four nations of the United Kingdom and the shared values and experiences that make us one people:
This is very similar to the first speech she gave as Prime Minister outside No. 10.
She and Donald Trump will get on well. Of that, I have no doubt.
Happy New Year to all my readers!
2016 proved to be the year of the impossible made possible.
The Brexit vote, the Cubs winning the World Series after 108 years and Donald Trump’s election are only three such examples. We lived through ground-breaking history this year.
Many people — especially agnostics — commented online that the Hand of God was all over various events that took place. Some of those people returned to the Church. Others, previously unchurched, converted. (The best anecdotal evidence can be found in comments at The_Donald.)
2017 looks even more exciting with regard to change and a break with the past. Light will shine on darkness. Those guilty of lying, malfeasance and indecency will be exposed and shamed. Many God-fearing people will be stunned by what they see in the news. The evil of the past revealed — and the power of the good to come — will cause scoffers to repent.
Therefore, I look forward to the New Year for the first time in decades.
I pray that divine grace and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit imbue and guide each of us in the year ahead. May God bless us all.
David Cameron has once more thrown his toys out of the pram!
Summer recess is now over, Parliament is back in session and the former PR man — the self-styled ‘heir to Blair’ — cannot bear being on the back benches.
He announced yesterday — September 12 — that he will be standing down as MP for his beloved Witney constituency in Oxfordshire.
At least he gave us the referendum.
However, he’s still angry about the result: Brexit, baby, Brexit.
A commenter on the aforementioned link from The Spectator clearly explains Witney, Cameron and British society. This is so true (emphases mine):
That constituency is a definite Remain area. The people in the UK who voted Leave weren’t the upper-middle class, which is what Cameron is. That stratum of society are the ones who buy craft beer and shop at Waitrose. The ones who voted Leave were the aristocracy and the working class. Britain exists in them; the upper-middle and middle are too concerned with their status, being “cool” and their bank balances. As long as there is still an aristocracy and a working class, Britain will prevail. That is why Labour detests the aristocracy, and the working class, and seeks to annihilate them both through mass-immigration. Everybody (and I don’t mean individuals, I mean the groupings) outside those two classes is self-seeking and individualistic, with no real concern for Britain.
Readers who live in or near Witney are particularly welcome to comment.
Let’s look at the timeline. Cameron was re-elected as MP only in May 2015. Then he gave us the EU Referendum in June 2016. As soon as the results were made public he announced his resignation as Prime Minister! Now, after summer break, he is unwilling to continue serving as MP to Witney because Brexit is sticking in his craw. Sad!
What a poor loser.
Not only is he standing down as MP, but he is doing it with ‘immediate effect’:
Spectator columnist James Forsyth surmises that Theresa May’s brand of conservatism is too much of a departure for Cameron:
… I think one of the things that makes it difficult for him to stay on is the extent to which Theresa May is moving away from Cameronism. It’s not just like Brexit is the only issue on which it would be difficult for Cameron to express a view – there are now a whole host of issues because Theresa May has tried to open up clear blue water between herself and Cameron’s government on quite a few things …
Thank goodness for that.
However, Cameron’s resignation sets a bad example for the British public. The Spectator‘s editor Fraser Nelson — not someone with whom I agree a lot — rightly points out:
“Brits don’t quit,” he told us a few months ago: now he has quit, twice. After telling us several times that he’d stay, to fulfil a duty to parliament and his constituents.
Indeed. Such a lack of principle will ultimately reflect on him:
Cameron could have been known for so many achievements: record employment, schools revolution, lowering inequality, crime rates plunging, a majority won against the odds – how quickly all of that is forgotten, how quickly Cameron has been reduced to the bad guy whom Theresa May enjoys defining herself against. Blair’s behaviour after leaving No10 trashed the reputation of Blairism – and it seems the self-styled “heir to Blair” had one more tribute act left in him. Now there is pretty much no one to say that Cameron’s premiership wasn’t all bad. No one can be bothered to hang around and defend Cameron’s reputation. Not even Cameron.
Cameron has acted in a pathetic manner. He led the Conservatives for ten years and was Prime Minister for the last five. He could have gone down in history as a compassionate Conservative.
Soon — by his own actions — he will be forgotten. He brought it on himself.
We’ve all heard the expression ‘stubborn as a mule’, but are all mules stubborn?
Before motorised vehicles were invented — and became relatively affordable — American farmers used to rent mules to pull heavy items such as tillers and other equipment.
… rented mules were handled by umpteen different people with varying degrees of experience working them. That resulted in the animal being totally confused by what was expected of it, bad habits mounted on top of more bad and when one farmer’s way set the mule up to misbehave, the next found it non-responsive to expectations, thus the animal was abused for not performing. Add to that, greedy rent mule owners overworked the animal, as well, not concerned with its well being.
The predicament of the rented mule reminds me of electorates in various Western countries. We notice that we’re overly taxed, yet disdained by the elite, who laugh at us and, even worse, pretend we don’t exist. Never mind that they rely on our money for their salaries. That includes the media.
This the elite are angry that Britons voted for Brexit. They are angry that millions and millions of Americans are likely to vote for Donald Trump in November.
One of my readers, Boetie (‘Brother’), asked for my view of the future of UKIP and Nigel Farage in light of Brexit.
The following will make it clear why many people in Britain had little time for UKIP, although they do acknowledge that if it hadn’t been for Nigel Farage, David Cameron would never have given us the EU Referendum nor would we have the Brexit result today. Therefore, Farage has delivered.
UKIP supporters make Farage out to be a national hero. Yes, he is very interesting and well informed. I have seen him speak in person. He graciously answered the questions I had about his party’s direction. And, yes, it was great seeing him on the hustings with a cigarette and a pint.
However, let’s not forget that, in 2009, Farage was called to account about his MEP expenses. The Observer (The Guardian‘s sister Sunday paper) has a good article from May 2009 which provides much detail. Excerpts follow, emphases mine:
The leader of the UK Independence party (Ukip), which wants to lead Britain out of the EU, has taken £2m of taxpayers’ money in expenses and allowances as a member of the European Parliament, on top of his £64,000 a year salary.
Nigel Farage, who is calling on voters to punish “greedy Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem MPs” at the European elections on 4 June, boasted of his personal expenses haul at a meeting with foreign journalists in London last week …
During a debate about Europe at the Foreign Press Association – which was discreetly taped by the hosts – Farage was asked by former Europe minister Denis MacShane what he had received in non-salary expenses and allowances since becoming an MEP in 1999.
“It is a vast sum,” Farage said. “I don’t know what the total amount is but – oh lor – it must be pushing £2 million.” Taken aback, MacShane then joked: “Is it too late to become an MEP?”
Farage insisted that he had not “pocketed” the money but had used the “very large sum of European taxpayers’ money” to help promote Ukip’s message that the UK should get out of the EU.
That is the main reason why I could never go gaga over Farage or UKIP.
Here is another. The Observer helpfully summarises what happened after the 2004 European elections and UKIP’s success. This was two years before Farage became party leader, incidentally:
… one of the dozen, Ashley Mote, was expelled from the party – and later jailed – for benefit fraud. Another, Tom Wise, is now facing prosecution for alleged false accounting and money laundering relating to his EU expenses. He denies the charges. Television presenter Robert Kilroy-Silk, who won the East Midlands for Ukip, later left to form another eurosceptic outfit, Veritas.
Kilroy-Silk, a former Labour MP prior to presenting his erstwhile morning current events show, did the right thing by leaving UKIP. He left Veritas in 2009, and the party was absorbed into the English Democrats in 2015.
Money aside — perhaps it is no coincidence the £ sign appears in the party logo — one then needs to look at what UKIP MEPs and councillors have said. Thejournal.ie has a round-up of some of their statements from 2004 to 2015. Several follow.
Godfrey Bloom (MEP who has since left the party) said in 2004 that a small business owner would have have to be a ‘lunatic’ to employ a woman of child-bearing age.
David Silvester (councillor, expelled from the party) said in January 2014 that the disastrous flooding in England was caused by the Coalition government’s decision to bring in same-sex marriage. He had also written to No. 10:
I wrote to David Cameron in April 2012 to warn him that disasters would accompany the passage of his same-sex marriage bill.
Janice Atkinson (MEP) described a self-employed UKIP-supporting Thai lady with British citizenship as a ‘ting-tong from somewhere’ in August 2014. ‘Ting-tong’ not only sounds bad, but in Thai it is a derogatory term denoting madness. Not surprisingly, the lady and her husband withdrew their UKIP membership.
Bill Etheridge (MEP) praised Hitler for his ‘forceful’ manner of oration. That was at a talk in November 2014 in the north of England.
Rozanne Duncan (councillor) said in a Channel 4 documentary in 2015 that she did not like ‘negroes’. She talked about it for three minutes.
During the general election campaign of 2015, UKIP supporters trolled in comments sections everywhere, most notably those of The Telegraph, The Guardian and The Spectator.
Those sites were deluged with the same cut-and-paste messages — many of them lengthy — from the same people day after day after day. Those people should have been banned, not for what they were saying but for the nauseating spamming of those sites.
While the overwhelming majority of UKIP voters and supporters are responsible, well-meaning people who are rightly concerned about the changes they have seen in their local areas over the past 15 years, there is a kernel of support from a handful of extremist-sympathisers. I have read many comments over the years from this tiny faction of UKIP supporters discussing their attendance at fringe/extremist marches.
Farage attempted to change party image
So far, there is something to be said for David Cameron’s referring to UKIP as ‘loonies, fruitcakes and closet racists’.
He said that in 2006 and again in the run-up to the 2015 election.
Fellow Conservative Michael Howard, Cameron’s predecessor, also labelled UKIP as ‘cranks and gadflies’ during his time as party leader.
Farage, who is married to a German, did his best to cleanse that image but with his MEPs and councillors saying silly and stupid things, the tarnish remained.
However, UKIP have gained strength in parts of the South East and the North in recent years among voters who have legitimate concerns.
Farage stood down as party leader within days of Brexit.
Leave voters thought he would stay on to police the triggering of Article 50 of the Treaty of Rome. However, that was not to be, for whatever reason.
The ironic thing about his abrupt resignation was that, just hours before he made the announcement, UKIP supporters were writing at length anticipating that Farage would not be getting a seat at the Brexit table. In summary (sarcasm alert): ‘Waaaah! The mean, nasty Tories will ignore our Nigel!’
Maybe that’s because Nigel didn’t want to play anymore.
He will, however, continue as an MEP in Brussels. Perhaps his attendance will improve. He shouldn’t forget who’s paying his salary: the taxpayers.
The future — a new party?
Personally, I really do hope UKIP sink like a stone.
The party was weird to begin with and never changed.
Businessman and entrepreneur Arron Banks has given much money and time to UKIP. He also gave £5.6 million to Leave.EU during the referendum campaign.
Banks told The Guardian that UKIP might be pruned back, but he seems to favour a brand new party in a Brexit era. Infinitely preferable, in my humble opinion.
“Ukip grew so rapidly it had problems with personnel and all sorts of issues and I believe that could be better tackled with a new party,” he said …
“I think we have a good shot at taking over from Labour as the opposition because Labour are imploding and Labour voters for the first time ever have defied their party, voting for leave,” Banks said on Wednesday.
But he hinted Farage might not be his choice of leader for any new party, saying: “He may have had enough. And by the way, going out at the top is a good way in politics.”
Indeed. Banks should start afresh. He understands what is needed:
Banks has been credited with professionalising Ukip’s referendum push through the Leave.EU campaign. He deployed senior executives and staff from his insurance companies and hired the Washington DC political campaign strategy firm Goddard Gunster on a multimillion-pound fee to sharpen its message.
“It was taking an American-style media approach,” said Banks. “What they said early on was ‘facts don’t work’ and that’s it. The remain campaign featured fact, fact, fact, fact, fact. It just doesn’t work. You have got to connect with people emotionally. It’s the Trump success.”
I wish Arron Banks the best of luck in putting his project together.
2016 is a year of huge change. The spate of obituaries during the first three months of this year in the US, UK and France signalled the end of an era. More recently, we saw more change with Brexit. We now have a new, no-nonsense Prime Minister. We might well see a Trump victory in November.
Before the year is out, we might also see a new political party in Britain capturing the hearts and minds of many, particularly in England: a new party for a new era.
UPDATE — SEPTEMBER 16: Diane James is the new UKIP leader. The Spectator has details. James won by approximately 4,000 votes over her nearest rival Lisa Duffy. Three others also vied for the post. The Spectator complains that she is very much a representative of southern England and the middle class. Hmm. The same is also true of Nigel Farage. She looks respectable and interviews well, so there should be no problem with credibility. I wish her all the best!
Boetie, I hope this responds adequately to your request. If not, please feel free to let me know.
It has been just under four weeks since the UK voted to leave the EU.
Theresa May has been our PM for one week.
She has done quite a lot of housecleaning in that time with many new appointments to the Cabinet, making it her own, and has created a department for Brexit.
It is unfortunate that the Nice attack took away our initial enjoyment of May’s premiership. I have much to write on her appointment and the lady herself.
For now, a few brief observations follow.
The Conservative Party — best for women
The Conservative Party is the best political party for women in Britain.
Within 26 years, they have given us two female Prime Ministers, redoubtable women both.
By contrast, the right-on, progressive Labour Party has never had a female leader.
Around the time May was entering Downing Street last week, Angela Eagle — a contender for Labour leadership — said that it was high time they had a woman at the top. What Ms Eagle misses is that the Conservatives chose Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May not because of their gender but because of their competence.
I remember watching Andrew Neil’s Sunday Politics (BBC) in 2015 prior to the general election. Several Labour women MPs told Neil week after week that the Conservatives should have more women in Cabinet.
Ho hum. Which party has two female Prime Ministers? The Conservative Party. Which party just happened to have an all-women shortlist for party leadership with Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom just ten days ago? The Conservative Party.
First PMQs an absolute blinder
On Wednesday, July 20, Theresa May held her first Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons.
She played an absolute blinder; she was confident, competent and concise. She answered every question with historical data and/or departmental updates. She took questions on housing, Brexit, ‘honour’ killings and the NHS, to mention a few.
Afterwards, I watched Daily Politics (BBC2) with Jo Coburn and her panel, most of whom, like Coburn herself, are very much left-of-centre. All said that May did very well indeed. Veteran reporter John Pienaar said she was much better than Margaret Thatcher in her early days of PMQs.
May will be travelling to Berlin on July 20 to meet with Angela Merkel over a working dinner. (I will have an update in a subsequent post.)
Brexit is likely to dominate the dinner discussions. Terrorism and the recent attempted Turkish coup are also probable topics.
This is an historic occasion, as both Britain and Germany have female leaders at the same time.
The two seem similar in several respects: both their fathers were clergymen, neither has children, both have a penchant for improving society and they have strong personalities.
Expect mutual respect and honest discussions. It will be interesting to see if, once she meets May, Merkel is willing to engage in some sort of negotiations prior to our invoking Article 50 of the Treaty of Rome.
May will be meeting with France’s François Hollande on July 21. Calais and terrorism are sure to be on the agenda along with Brexit.
On July 19, May held her first Cabinet meeting.
She reiterated her commitment to Brexit and will personally oversee that new department as well as those for the economy and social reform.
May has wisely appointed three Leavers to key positions involving Britain’s future outside the EU. Longtime MP David Davis is in charge of the Brexit unit as the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union. Boris Johnson, MP and former two-term Mayor of London, is Secretary of State for Foreign and International Affairs. Liam Fox is the Secretary of State for International Trade.
Keeping a close eye on Brexit, the economy and social reform ties together May’s overall agenda for her administration:
we will not allow the country to be defined by Brexit; but instead build the education, skills, and social mobility to allow everyone to prosper from the opportunities of leaving the EU.
I hope she continues to make progress in these areas. I’m beginning to like her a lot.
Mrs May has long been associated with leopard skin kitten heel shoes which she wore several years ago at a Conservative Party conference. (Representative ones are shown at left.)
(Photo credits: mozimo.co.uk)
In fact, at the weekend, my better half and I spoke with an older local resident. This man told us, quite seriously (verbatim), ‘I do hope Mrs May wins the leadership contest. Oh, those kitten heel shoes … I do like a firm woman, one who knows what she’s about.’
My overseas readers might ask what happened to the Conservative leadership contest. This is how it all unfolded.
Andrea Leadsom’s miserable weekend
Last weekend, the other candidate running for Conservative Party leader, Andrea Leadsom, gave an interview to Rachel Sylvester of The Times.
Sylvester, incidentally, is married to the Diplomatic Editor of The Guardian, Patrick Wintour. Wintour’s sister Anna is the famous editor of the American edition of Vogue. Their late father, Charles, is best known for editing the London Evening Standard, although he also held similar senior positions at the Daily Express and The Times.
Sylvester asked Leadsom what set her apart from May. Leadsom, always interested in children, answered, in part:
… genuinely, I feel being a mum means you have a very real stake in the future of our country, a tangible stake. She possibly has nieces, nephews, lots of people. But I have children who are going to have children who will directly be a part of what happens next … so I have a real stake in the next year, the next two.
The interview made The Times‘s front page. A media storm ensued. Leadsom tweeted that the quotes were ‘truly appalling’ and the exact opposite of what she actually said. Sylvester defended her interview, claiming that Leadsom was the one who brought children into it. However, renowned political blogger Guido Fawkes (Paul Staines) listened to the transcript and said that Sylvester wove motherhood into her question, something the journalist later admitted in a BBC interview. Fawkes concluded (highlights in the original):
Goes without saying that Leadsom completely denies raising the issue, calling the claim “gutter journalism”. The only way to establish whether or not Andrea Leadsom has been stitched up is to release the full recording – something The Times is refusing to do…
On Saturday, July 9, Leadsom gave a press conference from her home in Northamptonshire at which she said:
Everyone has an equal stake in the future of our country.
However, it was too late. Several Conservative MPs — men and women — criticised Leadsom’s remark on motherhood.
By Sunday, Leadsom admitted to The Telegraph‘s Alison Pearson that she felt:
under attack, under enormous pressure. It has been shattering.
By lunchtime on Monday, July 11, Leadsom announced she was dropping out of the leadership contest.
That afternoon, David Cameron made a brief announcement, saying that a new Prime Minister would be in place by Wednesday evening. He walked back to No. 10, unaware that the microphones were still on. This is what the world heard:
The Telegraph noted:
Somehow, it sounded half-mournful, half-jaunty. It was strangely touching.
It was a very human moment. It brought a smile.
Speaking of which, July 11 marked the first time the British public saw Theresa May smile (see picture at the top of the Telegraph link). Finally, we saw another side to the ‘steely’ Home Secretary who had served the nation for six years.
Cameron’s final hours
On the afternoon of Tuesday, July 12, an empty removals van arrived at 10 Downing Street:
Simply Removals will no doubt be getting a lot of new business.
This may look trivial, but it is important in the British psyche with regard to a new Prime Minister. It represents the beginning of the transfer of power from one to another. I remember in November 1990 when John Major was announced as Margaret Thatcher’s successor. My colleagues explained that nothing would happen until the removals van arrived.
On Wednesday, Cameron presided over his last PMQs (Prime Minister’s Questions). It was a witty, informative and heart-warming 45 minutes, including those questions and remarks from Leader of the Opposition, Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, who wore a tie. Cameron remarked upon it in the nicest possible way to much laughter from the benches.
Conservative MPs thanked Cameron for his achievements and some mentioned particular instances in their own constituencies, particularly the sharp drop in unemployment in certain parts of England.
Even a handful of Labour MPs thanked Cameron for his service.
At the end, the Conservatives gave him a standing ovation. All the Labour MPs heartily applauded him.
Afterwards, Cameron returned to spend a few hours at No. 10 before he gave his farewell speech around 4:45 p.m. His wife Samantha and their three children stood off to the side. Cameron recalled how his youngest, Florence (in Samantha’s womb when Cameron first entered No. 10 in May 2010) once climbed into his red ministerial box when she was little and begged him to take her along on one of his trips. He said that his two older children were known to kick the red boxes, they were so frustrated with their father’s absences from home.
The children, rightly, looked nervous. They had never been in the public eye until now.
Cameron also detailed his many achievements as Prime Minister — a lengthy list. We were blessed to have had him in that post for six years.
Just before 5 p.m., the Cameron family left No. 10 for Buckingham Palace. David and Samantha were in one car and the children in another.
The Queen’s role
Even more important than the removals van was the constitutional step of the outgoing Prime Minister asking the Queen for permission to resign.
This is a formality nowadays, since the successor has already been chosen by the political party, whether Conservative or Labour. However, it was not always so. When the Queen first ascended to the throne, the BBC News panel covering the afternoon’s events said that she used to seek advice from party grandees — the most senior MPs and advisers — on whom would be best placed to become the next Prime Minister. One Royal Family reporter said that this stopped in the 1960s after the Palace had a hand in the appointment of Anthony Eden — responsible for the Suez crisis in 1956 — and Alec Douglas-Home who served for only one year.
It is unlikely that the Queen would refuse a Prime Minister’s resignation. Nonetheless, she must be asked. The outgoing Prime Minister then recommends his or her successor to her. Again, these days, it is unlikely she would refuse that person.
In fact, Theresa May and her husband were already in a car waiting outside the Houses of Parliament. The driver awaited instructions from the Palace to leave. As soon as the Cameron family was being driven away — in black cars, no longer the silver Prime Ministerial ones — the car with the Mays pulled up in the forecourt.
The Queen spent a good half hour with David Cameron. Much of that was a private conversation between the two, then the whole family had an audience with her.
The monarch spent the same amount of time with Theresa May, again most of that privately, then with her husband included for a general conversation.
The Queen already knows Theresa May somewhat because, as Home Secretary, she was part of the Privy Council which meets with her at the Palace.
The Queen would have asked her to form a government. When the Queen issues this request of an incoming, consenting Prime Minister, that person must ‘kiss hands’ with her. In May’s case, this was a shake of the hands and a deep curtsey, à la Margaret Thatcher.
It is possible that the Queen asked May questions about the future government and its direction, although we will never know. Revealing private conversations of that nature is strictly forbidden.
The BBC panel said that, when the Queen was younger, she found the advice of Prime Ministers extremely helpful. That later turned into the Queen’s advising her Prime Ministers. The relationship is that of a CEO (PM) reporting to the Chairman (the Queen).
Theresa May is the 13th Prime Minister to serve under the Queen. It is interesting that she also was granted that position on July 13.
Like her predecessors, May will be expected to meet weekly with the Queen when Parliament is in session. The early Wednesday evening time — Cameron’s — might continue. We can but see.
The Mays left Buckingham Palace shortly before 6 p.m. in the silver Prime Ministerial car. They were in place at No. 10 in time for the evening news.
Security cars and motorcycles escorted the Camerons and the Mays to and from Buckingham Palace.
The Camerons, like other former Prime Ministerial families or couples, will continue to have security detail in future.
Theresa May’s address to the nation
Theresa May no sooner got out of the car with her husband Philip when she addressed the people of Great Britain. Philip stood off to the side.
The Spectator has the full transcript, most of which follows. It sounds very centrist if not Labour-like. Excerpts follow (emphases mine):
I have just been to Buckingham Palace, where Her Majesty the Queen has asked me to form a new government, and I accepted. In David Cameron, I follow in the footsteps of a great, modern Prime Minister … David Cameron has led a one nation government, and it is in that spirit that I also plan to lead. Because not everybody knows this, but the full title of my party is the Conservative and Unionist Party. And that word unionist is very important to me.
It means we believe in the union, the precious, precious bond between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. But it means something else that is just as important, it means we believe in a union not just between the nations of the United Kingdom, but between all of our citizens, every one of us, whoever we are and wherever we are from. That means fighting against the burning injustice that if you’re born poor you will die on average nine years earlier than others. If you’re black, you’re treated more harshly by the criminal justice system than if you’re white. If you’re a white, working class boy, you’re less likely than anybody else in Britain to go to university. If you’re at a state school, you’re less likely to reach the top professions than if you’re educated privately. If you’re a woman, you will earn less than a man. If you suffer from mental health problems, there’s not enough help to hand. If you’re young, you’ll find it harder than ever before to own your own home …
If you’re from an ordinary working class family, life is much harder than many people in Westminster realise. You have a job but you don’t always have job security. You have your own home but you worry about paying the mortgage. You can just about manage, but you worry about the cost of living and getting your kids into a good school. If you’re one of those families, if you’re just managing, I want to address you directly. I know you’re working around the clock, I know you’re doing your best and I know that sometimes life can be a struggle. The Government I lead will be driven, not by the interests of the privileged few, but by yours. We will do everything we can to give you more control over your lives. When we take the big calls, we’ll think not of the powerful, but you …
As we leave the European Union, we will forge a bold, new, positive role for ourselves in the world, and we will make Britain a country that works not for a privileged few, but for every one of us.
That will be the mission of the Government I lead. And together, we will build a better Britain.
This is a very good outcome for the nation in just under three weeks from the EU Referendum result and Cameron’s resignation.
Tomorrow: more about Theresa May and her Cabinet
They say that a week is a long time in politics.
This week has certainly proven that dictum true.
Party leader shake-up
Now that we have Brexit, who will see it through?
On July 4, Nigel Farage stood down as UKIP leader, saying he had accomplished his objective of getting us the EU Referendum. He will continue as MEP.
It’s an interesting development. Was family pressure the overriding factor in his decision?
His absence raises the question of who will police the Brexit process from the sidelines and make sure we actually go through with it. Farage is a man with dogged determination and passion for UK independence. Therefore, it is surprising that he is relying on pro-Remain Conservatives to follow through with it.
Labour continue in disarray, although party leader Jeremy Corbyn is still in place, much to the frustration of many of his MPs and party members.
The Conservatives — Tories — held their first rounds of voting to replace outgoing Prime Minister David Cameron.
I still maintain that Cameron resigned in haste early in the morning of June 24 because he was in a fit of pique. Yes, he was also tired and, yes, the PM role was taking its toll on his family, but he had pledged to stay on regardless of the result. The current issue of Private Eye features a little soundbite of his from March 2016. Would he resign if Leave won? ‘No,’ he replied. The problem was that he was quietly certain the result would be Remain. Had the result been Remain, no doubt Cameron would have stayed on as PM until 2020.
I will have another post next week on where this cross-party turmoil is going.
Conservative Party leadership election
For now, I will focus on the election of the next Prime Minister.
Pray God that whoever is elected will stay in until 2020 and win the next general election.
Earlier this week
This week began with five MPs put up for nomination. They were Theresa May, Andrea Leadsom, Michael Gove, Liam Fox and Stephen Crabb. Each had a proposer, prominent MPs’ support and a list of other supporting MPs.
Tory MPs except for David Cameron, who wants to remain neutral, voted on Tuesday, July 5, in the first round of candidate eliminations. Liam Fox, despite having been a shadow Cabinet (2005-2010) and Cabinet minister (2010-2011), received the smallest number of votes. His name was eliminated. Stephen Crabb, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, dropped out that night of his own accord. He had the next least number of votes that day.
That left May, Leadsom and Gove in the running for the second round of voting on Thursday, July 7.
Immediately after Brexit, everyone assumed that the Leave campaign’s main man MP and two-term former Mayor of London Boris Johnson would mount a bid to become the next party leader.
Incidentally, Johnson is backing Leadsom.
On Wednesday, July 6, Gove’s campaign manager, MP Nick Boles, urged MPs backing May to block Leadsom winning in the second round of voting on July 7. The Telegraph reported:
Nick Boles, the Justice Secretary’s campaign manager, has sent a text to MPs telling them that it would be in the “national interest” for them to stop Mrs Leadsom getting to the final run-off because she may win the vote of party members.
Mr Boles also claimed that he will “sleep easy at night” if Mrs May becomes the next prime minister, adding that Mr Gove is prepared to spend “two months taking a good thrashing from Theresa, if that’s what it takes”.
In the end, Gove became the next candidate to be eliminated. On July 7, May received 199 votes, Leadsom 84 and Gove a paltry 46.
The Telegraph rounded up reaction to Gove’s loss. Emphases mine below:
Tory backers of the Justice Secretary said his decision to betray the former London Mayor by unexpectedly withdrawing his backing, causing Mr Johnson to pull out of the race, had infuriated MPs.
They also blamed a leaked message showing his campaign was urging MPs to vote Gove to stop Andrea Leadsom had “kiboshed” his chances of becoming Prime Minister.
Critics said his behaviour during the leadership race over the last fortnight has left him “humiliated” in the eyes of colleagues and decreased his chances of winning a cabinet post in the next reshuffle.
Confirmation that he would not be the next prime minister triggered supporters and critics to blame his decision to pull support for Mr Johnson just hours before he formally launched his leadership bid, leading to claims of “back-stabbing” …
A second Tory MP who backed Mr Gove said a candid text message sent by his campaign manager Nick Boles urging people to support him to stop Mrs Leadsom which leaked to the media was “very damaging”.
The MP told The Telegraph: “The Nick Boles text [ha]s kiboshed Gove’s chances. It undermined people’s confidence in him. It made it look as if he’s been conspiring all along. It did more damage to his reputation than anything else.”
There were also suggestions that Mr Gove could struggle to remain in the cabinet given alleged animosity between himself and Mrs May and after his campaign’s attempted to undermine Mrs Leadsom.
Ben Wallace, the Tory MP who managed Mr Johnson’s campaign, told this newspaper on Thursday that it was Mr Gove’s apparent lack of trust that led to his defeat.
“The winning candidate knew that this competition was all about trust. Unfortunately it seemed Michael didn’t.
“The Tory Party and the country want a Prime Minister they will trust to deliver on the referendum result and bring a divided parliamentary party together. You don’t achieve that by playing political parlour games.”
Mr Gove has not yet revealed who he will vote for to become the next Tory leader after dropping out of the race.
Let that be a lesson to future schemers and plotters.
That is a providential development.
Gove’s equally ambitious wife, columnist Sarah Vine, is taking a break from her job at the Daily Mail. The paper has assured The Spectator that she will return in due course.
What happens next for Conservative members
Candidates May and Leadsom will now tour Conservative associations around the country to campaign.
Fully paid-up party members, estimated to be 150,000, will be able to vote for either lady. These members will have also joined the Conservatives three months prior to September 8, when voting ends.
Anyone who bets that May is a dead cert could lose money. The wiser political pundits will say they wouldn’t even begin to predict what the result will be.
Members have voted against MPs’ favourites before. This could be another instance.
We’ll find out who the next Prime Minister and party leader will be on September 9.
MPs’ distrust of party faithful
The number of Conservative Party members has been declining over the past 50 years.
David Cameron’s stances alienated some existing members in the shires. These people view him as living in a London bubble and not in the slightest bit interested in their concerns.
In 2013, Cameron’s close friend Andrew Feldman — Lord Feldman — denied he called the grassroots ‘swivel-eyed loons’. The Guardian reported:
No 10 was particularly sensitive because the alleged remarks revived criticism of the Tory leadership for being aloof and out of touch …
The unease across the party was highlighted yesterday when 35 current or former Conservative associations handed in a letter to Downing Street that accused the prime minister of showing “utter contempt” for the grassroots activists after pressing ahead with legislation for equal marriage. But Cameron came under fire from another wing when Lord Howe of Aberavon, the former chancellor, warned that he was losing control of the party on Europe.
Ben Harris-Quinney, the chairman of the Bow Group and director of Conservative Grassroots, which drummed up support for the letter, said of Feldman’s alleged remarks: “It doesn’t matter who made these comments, the problem is that it comes as no surprise and is representative of a wider malaise in the party – the disconnect between the leadership and the grassroots, between conservatism and the leadership of the Conservative party. The tail cannot continue to wag the dog.”
The Bow Group, which was founded in 1951, intervened in the wake of Feldman’s alleged remarks on Wednesday night, said to have been made shortly after 116 Tory MPs showed their unease with David Cameron over Europe and voted in favour of an amendment regretting the absence of a EU referendum in the Queen’s speech.
On July 5, 2016, the chairman of the Countryside Alliance and serving MP Simon Hart warned that Conservatives in rural areas could upset the Conservative establishment come September 9:
… our own research suggests that there are at least 26,000 Conservative Party members on the Alliance’s database of members and supporters – that’s 20% of the entire Conservative Party. They are politically active, they vote and they are watching this political saga unfold with a keen eye.
These people may not represent a key constituency of swing voters in a General Election, but in a Conservative leadership election they just might …
This huge rural constituency is not swivel-eyed about these things. They know that the country is in flux, pulled in numerous directions in an uncertain world.
Conservative Home bills itself as ‘the home of conservativism’. Yet, in many ways, it is one of the most arrogant, anti-Conservative grassroots sites around. I only started reading it again after six years for additional details on the leadership campaign. Once that is over, I’ll be finished with it for good.
Former MP Paul Goodman wrote two columns there this week which elicited lively comments, not all of which supported his views.
On July 6, he set the torchpaper alight with this provocative title, ‘May has half the vote. If Tory MPs clearly want her, should party members defy them?’
Good grief. The party members serve as a check and balance against party MPs.
Goodman plays the paternalistic role for the good and the great:
Party members have the right to vote for whichever of the two candidates put before them they wish. But what one has a right to do is not necessarily what it is wise to do.
He ends with Tory Leadership Project Fear:
If May emerges during the coming days as the clear choice of a majority of Conservative MPs, should Party members really throw their weight behind another candidate – especially at what is the biggest moment in our national life certainly since Suez, and perhaps since 1940?
This man clearly takes party members for fools.
On July 8, he had another go with ‘For Brexit’s sake and for Britain’s, Theresa May should be the next Prime Minister’.
The man is frightened. After all, look how the people defied the establishment on June 23.
He is scared. The first paragraph states that Brexit must happen because:
if it does not the mainstream parties risk a Italian-style revolt against the entire political class.
Goodman is not wrong. However, he is part of the problem with his fearmongering and condescension:
The British political system is ultimately a Westminster-based one.
He’s not only stating the obvious. He is telling the grassroots to obey their betters! This is why voters are angry. Parliament does not represent them.
Parliament — both houses — represents itself and its own interests. Lady Oona King, a life peeress, said that the public did not understand what they were voting for in the EU Referendum. I can assure her that, to the contrary, we most certainly did.
Again, he says party members should not vote in their own interests, but in MPs’ interests:
Some Party members will doubtless insist that it is their decision, thank you very much, and that if they want Leadsom, then Tory MPs must put up with it. It is their right to do so, and one this site unflichingly supports – and campaigns for. None the less [sic], what one has a right to do is not always what it’s right to do.
Never was this more applicable than now …
Because we are in crisis, man, crisis! Once more, Project Fear has lift off:
The circumstances are unique. The Conservative Party has held leadership elections in government before. But never has it done so with a Prime Minister retiring from office. His replacement will come to office at a supreme national moment.
… the most dramatic, the scale of the challenge is scarcely comprehensible: bigger than that which faced Margaret Thatcher in 1979, almost as great as that which faced Attlee in 1945 – or Churchill six years earlier.
If I were a Conservative Party member and my postal ballot had arrived, I’d be voting for Leadsom after reading that.
Goodman describes May as
honourable if cunning …
An interesting choice of words and one which does not — or should not — inspire confidence that she will do right by voters. However, the campaign is only just starting and we can but see.
The spotlight will be on Leadsom and it may well be that, as May’s 199+ MPs believe, she cannot deliver.
However, scaremongering on the level that the Remain campaign so ably showed so recently will not work.
People rightly vote in their interests just as MPs vote in theirs. Why should the Tory faithful vote to further MPs’ privileged priorities?
When the EU Referendum debates and discussions were going on this year, the widespread understanding among the British public was that, should Leave win, the Prime Minister could trigger Article 50 to start the separation from the European Union.
David Cameron implied as much in his resignation speech on June 24.
In other words, it did not require a vote in Parliament.
Now that Leave have won, elite Remainers say that invoking Article 50 requires a separate Act of Parliament, i.e. a vote in the House of Commons.
Remainers were out in force at the weekend.
There was a Remain protest in London with at least 30,000 protesters taking part.
Then former Deputy Prime Minister (2010-2015) Nick Clegg, a Liberal Democrat, added an additional layer of procedure, saying there should be a fresh election before Article 50 is triggered. The Guardian reports (emphases mine):
Under Clegg’s scenario, MPs after an election would scrutinise the government’s specific plan to ensure it was legal and workable, and crucially, article 50 should only be triggered following a vote of consent from MPs. He points out that many top legal experts have disputed the notion that the prime minister can invoke article 50 on her or his own.
“Finally, the definitive, negotiated terms both of our exit from, and our future relationship with, the EU must then be put back to parliament for a vote of consent,” argues Clegg.
Conveniently, legal experts are already in place, no doubt hired by the Remain elite. Mishcon de Reya is the firm’s name. They are highly expensive and out of the reach of most Britons except for multi-millionaires and billionaires.
The Guardian tells us:
A prominent law firm is taking pre-emptive legal action against the government, following the EU referendum result, to try to ensure article 50 is not triggered without an act of parliament.
Acting on behalf of an anonymous group of clients, solicitors at Mishcon de Reya have been in contact with government lawyers to seek assurances over the process, and plan to pursue it through the courts if they are not satisfied. The law firm has retained the services of senior constitutional barristers, including Lord Pannick QC and Rhodri Thompson QC.
Their initiative relies upon the ambiguous wording of article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, which sets out how states could leave the EU. The first clause declares: “Any member state may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.”
It would be interesting to find out more about their proposed case, because Article 50 is EU — not British — legislation.
It is odd that this is coming up now, in light of a Leave result. It seems that hiring Mishcon de Reya is a Remain tactic to overturn or push aside the Leave result. Worse, it may be establishing conditions that do not need to exist in order for us to begin ‘divorce proceedings’.
In February 2016, MP Philip Hammond — the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs — led a debate on the EU Referendum. The question of a parliamentary vote arose.
Note that Scotland’s Alex Salmond said the Foreign Secretary — not the Prime Minister — invokes Article 50.
Excerpts from Hansard follow:
Alex Salmond (Gordon) (SNP)
The Foreign Secretary invokes article 50. Before notification was given under article 50, given that the referendum is an advisory one in terms of the constitution, would there be a vote in Parliament? Would there also be a vote in the Scottish Parliament, given the impact on devolved competencies under the Sewel convention?
The Government’s position is that the referendum is an advisory one, but the Government will regard themselves as being bound by the decision of the referendum and will proceed with serving an article 50 notice. My understanding is that that is a matter for the Government of the United Kingdom, but if there are any consequential considerations, they will be dealt with in accordance with the proper constitutional arrangements that have been laid down.
The next question seemed to concern revoking the Communities Act of 1972, UK legislation which was necessary in order for Britain to become a member of the EU:
Mr Bernard Jenkin (Harwich and North Essex) (Con)
I rather concur with the right hon. Member for Gordon (Alex Salmond), because I think that before the Government could move to any action as a consequence of the referendum, it would be essential for Parliament to debate the matter and for the Government to obtain consent from Parliament.
On the question of what happens if we leave, may I enlighten the Foreign Secretary? First, there is no obligation to go for article 50. Secondly, we would be taking back control over our borders, our laws and the £10 billion a year net that we give to the European Union. It would buy us plenty of options, which the Government seem determined to prevent us even from discussing.
Repealing the Communities Act would leave us in no man’s land and would immediately cut us off not only from the EU but from other countries with whom we trade. Whereas Article 50 keeps us in the EU and maintains our trade agreements with non-EU countries during a negotiated divorce period, revoking the Communities Act would leave us with nothing. As we are not WTO members because we are in the EU, we would have huge problems. Mr Hammond explained:
My hon. Friend raises again the suggestion that there is no need to treat an exit vote as triggering a notice under article 50. He seems to suggest that there is some other way of doing it. He raised the question on Monday and I looked into it, because he caught my imagination, but I have to tell him that that is not the opinion of the experts inside Government and the legal experts to whom I have talked. We are bound by the treaty until such time as we have left the European Union. The treaty is a document of international law, and Ministers are obliged under the terms of the ministerial code to comply with international law at all times.
The UK’s current access to the single market would cease if we left the EU, and our trading agreements with 53 countries around the world would lapse. It is impossible to predict with any certainty what the market response would be, but it is inconceivable that the disruption would not have an immediate and negative effect on jobs, on business investment, on economic growth and on the pound. Those who advocate exit from the EU will need to address those consequences—the substantive consequences, of the kind that the British people will be most focused on—in the weeks and months of debate to come …
… I asked the Foreign Secretary earlier about the circumstances that would arise if the vote went for out and when article 50 would be invoked, and I have been reading the Library paper in preparation on exactly that issue. The Library paper suggests that the likely formulation would be that there would be a vote in this Chamber before the Government invoked the position, but the Government could say it was an Executive decision and just go ahead anyway. What it then goes on to argue is of great importance.
I wish to clarify something. I answered the right hon. Gentleman on this point earlier, but I have taken advice since. It is the Government’s position that if the electorate give a clear decision in this referendum to leave, the Government will proceed to serve an article 50 notice; there will be no need for a further process in this House.
In his blog, Conservative MP John Redwood foresees a combination of the two approaches. Whatever happens, we do not need lawyers getting involved:
Parliament effectively control the prerogative powers of government. The government can send a letter triggering Article 50 without asking Parliament. Like all such deeds Parliament can review or vote down any action of the government. If the government uses powers in ways Parliament does not like Parliament can pass a vote of no confidence. We do not need lawyers telling us how to legislate or control government.
It is understandable that Leavers, from voters to government campaigners, are concerned by the controversy surrounding Article 50 or the possibility that the result could be ignored.
The Spectator‘s readers have been mulling this over. One wrote: