Westminster is asleep at the wheel as Farage bids to fill political vacuum

May 17, 2019 Off By readly




Monday

I’ve been to many Nigel Farage rallies when he was leader of Ukip and you could invariably rely on something going wrong. On one glorious occasion a Ukip candidate sobbed as he read out a crap poem he had written about Spitfires and the White Cliffs of Dover. It was almost as though neither Farage nor his audience took him entirely seriously.

In Farage’s new role as self-appointed leader of the Brexit party, he has given himself a makeover and it’s seriously scary. With the Tories and Labour pretending the European elections aren’t happening, he has quickly filled the political vacuum.

Featherstone working men’s club was rammed with men and women who had paid £2.50 for the privilege. It rapidly got more disconcerting. First Ann Widdecombe got a hero’s welcome from traditional Labour voters who would normally have eaten her alive.

Farage appeared and stuck to his Trump-like script of betrayal, humiliation and Making Britain Great Again. No one was that concerned if what he was saying was true or if he could deliver: he was received as if he was the nation’s saviour.

Weirdest of all, amid all the hatred of the EU in this former Yorkshire mining town where work is thin on the ground, was that less than a stone’s throw away was a small business park that proudly declared its construction had been part-funded by the EU. The country is changing and Westminster is asleep at the wheel. MPs need to wake up before it’s too late and the populist demagogues have taken over.

Tuesday

Having secured an extension to article 50 till the end of October, Theresa May appeared to have gone into a coma as no one had heard from her since. Now she has woken up to declare she will bring the withdrawal agreement bill before MPs in June. Not because she expects it to pass, but because she can’t think of a better plan and it looks even worse for the government to be seen to be doing nothing.

Her cabinet colleagues have not been so idle, using the time to run their own leadership campaigns. Last week, I mentioned Jeremy Hunt and Dominic Raab’s Hello! magazine style home photoshoots. This week Liz Truss and James Brokenshire got in on the act. Truss was given such a dramatic makeover that not even she would have recognised herself on the front cover of the magazine next to the headline “Is this the next leader of the Conservative party?” A question to which the answer is no. Brokenshire merely appeared in a kitchen that had four ovens and two dishwashers. The Ikea salesman must have seen him coming.

One outsider attracting backers is the new defence secretary, Penny Mordaunt: partly on the grounds she isn’t Gavin Williamson and partly because she’s a Brexiter. In a speech at the Royal United Services Institute she did her chances no harm by mentioning Margaret Thatcher and the Falklands about 10 times. She did though suggest she could build a new frigate for £250m. Must be an Airfix one. Numbers may not be Mordaunt’s strongest suit.

Wednesday

This week is mental health awareness week. Personally, I would like one week off in the year when I didn’t have to worry about my mental health, but I appreciate the gesture. At prime minister’s questions May made a point of mentioning how much she cared about people’s mental health. Which was a bit rich, seeing as the Tories have cut mental health services and she has done more to increase Britain’s anxiety levels than anyone.

It’s sod’s law too that inanimate objects have been using the week to stress me out. I’m into my third week with my Fitbit and I’ve been doing everything I can to make it happy. I even did an hour and 45 minutes on the cross-trainer at level 15 to get my intensity minutes to record levels. And all I’ve got in return is a reading that says I am actually less fit than I was when I started. It’s driving me madder.

Most disturbing of all this week, though, is that I find myself agreeing with Katie Hopkins, who tweeted it was hypocritical to axe the Jeremy Kyle show while Love Island, two of whose contestants have killed themselves, is still feted as great TV. Me and Katie on the same side? The end of mental health awareness week can’t come soon enough.

Thursday

As I’ve only ever watched one episode of Game of Thrones I have no views on whether the final series has been a disappointment. But I am amazed that an online petition to get the producers to come up with a completely different storyline for the last season looks set to top one million.

Fair enough to be pissed off at having invested so much time in something you feel has let you down, but to demand a total reshoot is just bonkers. I felt a bit let down by the final episode of Line of Duty, but I’m not calling for Jed Mercurio to rewrite it just for me.

Nor am I expecting authors whose books haven’t been all I had hoped to re-edit for my benefit. After all, there’s always the possibility – slim, I know – that I could be wrong and have missed the whole point. There is one book for which I could make an exception and that is David Cameron’s autobiography, For the Record, which is being published in September and is guaranteed to be one long plea for clemency. How he really, really did his best and the fact Brexit has turned into a complete shambles is nothing at all to do with him.

As some of you may have noticed, I have all but given up doing the Digested Read after nearly 20 years as Westminster has been all-consuming, but Dave’s book is one for which I will make a point of coming out of retirement.

Friday

Two more Tory MPs – Kit Malthouse, the brains behind the eponymous compromise in which even he no longer believes, and James Cleverly – have added their names to the list of candidates for the Tory party leadership. A contest, according to a new poll conducted by the Politico website and Hanbury, for which Boris Johnson is now clear favourite.

One person wisely keeping a low profile is the disaster-prone transport secretary, Chris Grayling, the only cabinet member with lower poll ratings than May. During his five years in government, it is now estimated Failing Grayling has cost the country the best part of £3bn.

Just imagine. The UK would have been £2bn better off by paying him £1bn to stay at home where he could do no damage. That’s two new hospitals we could have had for the price of Grayling mowing his lawn.

On Thursday he added another £500k to his tab, as the justice secretary, David Gauke, admitted that Grayling’s reforms of the probation service had been a total failure and it would need to be renationalised. He will be a loss to sketch writers, if not the country, when he is inevitably eased out of cabinet by a new prime minister. At a lobby briefing, May’s spokesman insisted she still had full confidence in Grayling. Presumably the confidence that whatever he did he would screw it up.

Digested week digested: the Tories and Labour: missing in action.

Source of this (above) article: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/may/17/westminster-is-asleep-at-the-wheel-as-farage-bids-to-fill-political-vacuum