The Theresa May Cabinet

Vote LeaveI have made no secret of my support for Andrea Leadsom so my comments on Mrs May’s Cabinet need to be seen in this context:


Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond  Remainer   A safe pair of hands

Foreign Secretary                   Boris Johnson        Leaver         A challenge for him

Home Secretary                      Amber Rudd          Remainer     Bloody rude in EU debate

Defence Secretary                   Michael Fallon       Remainer     Watch him

Brexit Secretary                       David Davies          Leaver         A good job for him and us

International Trade                Liam Fox                 Leaver         A good job for him and us

I have two hopes:

  • That Michael Gove has a job.  I would send him back to run education and to sort out “The Blob”.
  • That Gisela Stuart has a job.  This may be difficult, given she is a Labour MP, but I think we should find a way around that minor problem.
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Motherhood and apple pie

Rachel Sylvester

Rachel Sylvester

The row that broke out over Andrea Leadsom and motherhood reminds me that many successful journalists have an interesting approach to developing a story.

From my own experience as Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, particularly with the Oxford Mail, many journalists will work to the following established pattern:

  • write the headline;
  • draft the story that sits under the headline;
  • conduct the interview with the sole purpose of extracting the short phrase that underpins the desired headline and story;
  • sign off the story and submit.

I strongly suspect this is the approach Rachel Sylvester took with Andrea Leadsom in The LeadsomA2Times piece.  It has led to several days of shrieking headlines and may have helped the establishment push for Theresa May.  I have taken David Cameron’s studied silence and abstention from voting as a silent endorsement of Theresa May as his successor.  This is the same David Cameron who instructed his MPs to ignore the Eurosceptic views of their constituents and imposed same-sex marriage on a startled and unready Party membership.

Well, the Party and a majority of the country pushed back on the EU referendum and shocked the establishment with its clear decision.  I have a sneaky feeling, the Party membership may well administer a second shock to their parliamentary representatives by ignoring the establishment line and electing Andrea Leadsom to be our next Prime Minister.  I certainly hope so.

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Three score years and ten

KRM 10_04_20_21When I wake tomorrow morning (Saturday 9 July 2016) I will have achieved three score years and ten.  I am pleased both to have reached this landmark and to have been born when I was.  I am not so sure I would be comfortable to be in my school years or early work years now.

  • My parents went without a lot of luxuries to send me to a private school.  They thought I would thrive in a small, 5 to 18 school and I did.  I was never a sportsman but I was academically talented and this was recognised and encouraged.  I left school before I was 16 years old with enough O-levels as they then were to start my chosen career.  Someone in my Party is now suggesting that people whose parents sent them to be privately educated should be discriminated against.  Bonkers!
  • I was the last generation for whom university was not de rigeur and I am glad of that.  I served five years as an articled clerk with a firm of Chartered Accountants and qualified when I was 21 years old.  I do not know how I would have taken to university but suspect I may not have thrived.  In any case, I fear John Major and others have cheapened the process by converting polytechnics into universities.  Some were up for this (Oxford Brookes) others clearly were not.  I am glad I do not have the burden of student debt although this may be useful in helping students to identify the value of education and of their own degree course.
  • I think we have lost our identity in a number of ways.  Firstly in dress and appearance.  I always thought tattoos were worn by tars and tarts and I struggle to see many middle class people sporting ghastly tattoos very visible to all.  I am baffled by the desire to despoil the human body in this way.
  • I am also sad to see the degeneration in dress standards.  In London, in pubs and restaurants and on the streets and trains, people are generally very scruffy, particularly men.  Oxfordshire is little better.  I am baffled that couples can go out when she dresses fairly well while he looks as if he has come straight off of a building site.
  • Which leads me on to women and a few men wearing jeans with holes in the knees.  Whoever was the designer that persuaded people to pay good money for jeans that appear worn out at the knees needs to be locked up for mendacity or given a Queens Award for Industry for extorting money from people too stupid to realise they are being had.
  • I will conclude with the equality and sexuality industries.  The quest for equality at all costs has led us to lose some of the most important values a civilisation can hold including respect for religion.  I distrust the increasing secularisation of our society because removing religion from the mainstream threatens the removal of our core beliefs and moral values.
  • Which leads me on to gay marriage.  I don’t have a problem with people who are gay but I have always felt sexual matters were private and I do object to having people’s sexual practices thrust up my nose.  I struggle with men kissing in public; it is too many years of conditioning and a slight aversion to overt signs of intimacy between anyone in public.   As for two men or two women marrying, I am sorry but this remains plain daft, given that the church’s view of marriage is for the procreation of children which is pretty challenging for two men or two women unless they invoke some form of artificial assistance.
  • Finally, I hear Cameron is going to allow women to take part in hand-to-hand combat by our military.  Given he imposed same sex marriage on our country, I suppose this was inevitable but it seems plain bonkers to me.  Until we abolish the separation of men’s and women’s teams in cricket, football, rugby and boxing, I fail to see how women should be expected to compete equally in fighting an 18 stone aggressive Russian soldier with knife or bayonet in a future confrontation.  It is bonkers.
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Leadsom’s the one

I have been privileged to have witnessed and met many national politicians while I was Leader of Oxfordshire County Council and this does give some sense of their style and capability.  In my time, I met:

  • Margaret Thatcher after she had stood down from office
  • John Major while he was Prime Minister
  • William Hague when he was in his euro-sceptic phase, sadly lost more recently
  • Ian Duncan Smith when he was Leader of the Opposition. I voted for him to stop Ken Clarke who would have been a Europhile disaster
  • David Cameron, having stood as a candidate in the Witney selection and having lost out to David and then working with while I was Leader of Oxfordshire County Council

I have also met and had dealings with Boris Johnson, Theresa May and Angela Leadsom so have had a chance to talk with them and to sense their style and capability.

Having won the referendum to leave the European Union, I am quite clear that this leads to four conclusions:

  1. We need to get on with the process without equivocation or deviation;
  2. We need to make all reasonable speed to minimise market uncertainty;
  3. We need to re-unite the Party after a bruising debate as well as the country and to reassure the 48% who wished to remain while being quite clear we are leaving;
  4. We need to recognise the serious concerns about huge levels of immigration that were one of the causes of the ultimate decision.

I am not convinced that Theresa May shares 1, 2 or 4 and I fear she will lead the country into an unholy fudge.  We have made it clear we want out and that has to be delivered.  Someone who kept her head below the parapet during the debate does not seem to me to have the courage of conviction to give leadership now.  Also look at her supporters, including Heseltine and Clarke and you have to wonder ….

I have been thinking about parallels in our political past.  I think the choice is clear:

  • Continuation or change
  • Management or innovation
  • Hand wringing or optimism

MayT1To me, Theresa May is a part of the establishment that wanted HeathE1to remain  and against which 52% of the electorate rebelled decisively.  If I think of a parallel in our  political recent history, it is Edward Heath.  Pro-European, distant, dull and defensive.  I think he and Theresa May share a lot in common and neither of them were or are for me.

LeadsomA2In contrast, Andrea Leadsom has something of Margaret ThatcherM3Thatcher about her.  She has challenged the Euro establishment and won the argument. She is for speedy withdrawal and she has enthusiasm and confidence in our ability as a nation to thrive outside of the Euro morass.  She is for change and renewal and I think this is what the country needs.  Cameron had never served in Cabinet when he was elected so let us not worry.  Andrea will rise to the challenge.




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When a pub is not a pub

Black Boy Milton

Black Boy

If you were planning to go to the Black Boy public house in Milton for a pint today, don’t bother.  It is closed to the public for a private party.  I went for my usual Saturday pint and snack today only to find it was festooned with pretty balloons and to read a notice saying CLOSED FOR A PRIVATE PARTY. It seems some lucky couple were holding their wedding reception there.  Good luck to them.

Now a public house is surely, by implication, a house for the public to enjoy?  So, to close it without notice seems pretty unacceptable to me.   If I had known, I would not have driven unnecessarily to Milton.  Something on their web site would have been worth trying or an e-mail to their regulars for whom they presumably have e-mail addresses but simply to shut down was particularly irritating.  I assume they will return to being a house for the public tomorrow (Sunday) so I need to decide whether I drive over there to find out or try my luck with something more local.

Nought out of ten for customer satisfaction.

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Theresa May – judged by the company she keeps

EU flagIt has been quite a week!  We won the Leave vote; we surprised the world and we upset the establishment!  The pollsters, the markets and the Remainers got it seriously wrong.  While the markets show good signs of recovering, the pollsters have gone very quiet and some Remainers are working themselves up into a frenzy of indignation.

Although Boris probably carried the Leave argument in the country with the larger groups,image I thought Gove and Leadsom did remarkably well in the TV debates.  Gove has a statesmanlike and intellectual quality that over-shadowed Boris and Leadsom shone through brightly despite her relative political inexperience.  Boris’s departure clearly caught everyone by surprise and it seems that Gove is being portrayed as the villain in the piece which I think is unfair and unnecessary.  Boris and Gove are two very clever men with formidable intellects but quite different characteristics that should have made them an unbeatable team.  However, it seems they could not find common ground and the fact that Gove could kill Boris’s ambitions at a stroke surely speaks for his own standing?

May_T2Which brings us to Theresa May.  I struggle with the probability that she may get the top job as a result of remaining silent during much of the referendum debate and despite having nominally supported the Remain camp.  I am afraid I do not trust her or those who support her bid.

Michael Heseltine has castigated the 17 million electors who voted to get our country HeseltineM3back and clearly believes their wish should be ignored and circumvented.  This is the chap who lost his cool over Westland and caused the downfall of Margaret Thatcher although he failed to succeed her.  I am sure his arrogance is one of the issues feeding people’s despair with disconnected politicians.  He is supporting Theresa May.

ClarkK2Ken Clark has similarly expressed his amazement that 17 million electors have instructed the government to leave the European Union.  He clearly believes the wishes of the majority should be thwarted and the establishment should find a way of remaining despite having lost the referendum vote.  Famous for his Hush Puppy shoes and his left of centre Europhilia, he is supporting the lady with the shoes.

You judge people by the company they keep. I cannot understand how someone from the Remain campaign, however muted, can lead the country in leaving the European Union.  I suspect a fudge and her list of supporters gives me little comfort.  We need clarity and firm leadership that recognises people’s concern about unlimited access to our country for the 450 million people living in the 27 states. We need clarity and firm leadership about people’s desire to govern their own country and set their own laws.  This will involve disentangling European regulations from our own laws and giving us back our country.  I fear Theresa May would present the country with an unwelcome fudge that left us tangled in the EU’s tentacles.

LeadsomA2Which brings us to the two obvious candidates: Gove and Leadsom.  Whether our Conservative MPs will present the party members with this choice seems doubtful so, if it is May and Leadsom on the final ballot, my vote is for Leadsom.  I have already said how much I wish she represented Banbury constituency rather than the one next door.

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Nonentities replaced by nonentities

red rose1I read the Daily Telegraph every day on my iPad; usually at lunch time when enjoying a pint in one of my locals.    I was fascinated today (27-Jun-16) to learn the names of shadow cabinet members who had been fired or resigned.  By now, I understand the number has risen to 30 or more but I doubt I will recognise many more names.

Oxon floods 2007Hilary Benn is someone I met when I was Leader of the Council and we shared a 4X4 driven by a West Oxon DC officer who sped us through the flooded lanes of West Oxon in the floods of 2007.  He struck me then as a very decent chap and a bit of a chip off his father’s block.

Charles Falconer has a long pedigree going back to Blair and Brown so his is a name I recognise.

John Healey

John Healey

John Healey is another Labour MP I got to know when I was Chairman of the SE Regional Assembly and he always struck me as a gentleman and a very decent guy.  Beyond this short list, who are all of these other names – apparently members of the Labour Shadow Cabinet.  What impact have any of them made on the public perception?  How many Labour voters would know them?  Not many, I suspect!

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