24 May 2018
Diary of a Corbynista
Snap Election Rumblings
by Don Urquhart
Sports Minister Tracey Crouch announced that the maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) will be reduced from £100 to £2.
Philip Bowcock, CEO of William Hill, said that a £2 FOBT limit would have a devastating impact on the High Street betting industry, with up to half of Britain’s betting shops facing threat of closure and about 20,000 jobs going.
I suspect that the drug barons would make similar observations should we make successful inroads into their pernicious business practices.
We don’t go to TGI Fridays any more. When the kids were small they used to like the American chophouse style. The waiters and waitresses in their striped livery would treat you like old friends, kneel at the table and call you “guys”. It was so patronising you wanted to barf, but I sympathised with the individuals forced to demean themselves in this way. Now the staff at two of the restaurants are about to strike citing changes in their pay deal which will cost them £250 per month. And TGI Fridays is one of 43 hospitality sector firms fined in March for failing to pay the minimum wage.
Theresa May is fond of telling us how many people are in employment. As far as I know there are no statistics telling us how many people like their jobs.
Watching Dan Hodges on This Week I was impressed by the way he marshalled the facts of the Gaza shootings in defence of the Israeli government. For many the event was an atrocity perpetrated by and totally the responsibility of the people Mr Hodges was defending. Given the same information it is possible through careful selection and presentation to offer diametrically opposed yet plausible viewpoints.
In a small way we had a similar situation this morning in our front room. On the floor there was a pile of sick and hiding behind a curtain our cat Shelby. My quite reasonable reaction was
You (expletive deleted) – I’m going to dig a big hole and throw you down it.
The wife appeared with Dettol and cloth and addressed Shelby in a more reassuring manner:
What a good boy, being sick on the floor rather than the furniture.
Had an Irish Eurovision panellist been sick on our floor the wife would have been straight out to the bottom of the garden with a spade.
We had a street party yesterday just after the Duke and Duchess of Sussex had made their vows. Turning on the TV this morning I had hoped that the nation would have got the excitement out of its system. Emma Barnett was standing in for Andrew Marr and had Simon Sharma and Sarah Vine reviewing the papers. Generally speaking this meant reminding the British public how lucky we are to have lit on the Windsors as a royal family. The only other news item to cause a frisson of any kind was Matt Hancock’s announcement of measures to control social media giants. Ms Vine declared that the Minister for Culture Media and Sport was “on fire”. Ms Barnett had a chat with him later and tried to discover the precise nature of his plans. She soon had him “under fire” and it was clear that he did not have the first clue as to what he was trying to achieve beyond stating some aspirations about people being nice to each other online.
It is thrilling to read of snap election rumours in The Sunday Times and New Statesman.
By way of response, Theresa May went to Macclesfield to make a speech about using Artificial Intelligence to cure cancer. I don’t blame her for talking about yet another vague jam tomorrow initiative rather than her core responsibilities but it is too little and too late. She is the person who created and ran a hostile immigration regime in order to hit bogus and impossible targets; she is the person who over estimated her own popularity and threw away a parliamentary majority and she is also the person who could not agree a Brexit policy with her own cabinet. That’s how she will be remembered.
The election cannot come soon enough.
A study by the London School of Economics and the University of Bristol reported that pupils in schools with a more diverse racial mix are much more positive about people of different ethnicities.
Intuitively you would expect this to be the case and also that it would assist social integration for children from different faith backgrounds to be educated together.
Geoff Barton, leader of the ASCL head teachers’ union, said:
When young people from different backgrounds mix, they find they have far more in common than any perceived differences between them.
Today in Brussels our Brexit negotiators will discuss the Irish border with their EU counterparts.
It is possible that they all know what they are doing and will deliver the goods at the end of the day. After all, they say, we came up with a Phase I agreement in December, and a transition agreement in March.
On both occasions several issues including the Irish border were kicked down the road and, as of today, look no closer to being resolved. But so often agreement is reached just before the deadline. Professional negotiators will tell you that they do not feel comfortable coming to an agreement with time to spare – they must have forgotten something. When is zero hour? Theresa May and David Davis back in October last year promised a meaningful Commons vote with plenty of time before we are scheduled to leave the EU. That has to be in the autumn of this year.
Will they try to weasel out? It is made harder by Dominic Grieve’s Amendment Seven to the Withdrawal Bill passed in December giving MP’s the power to reject the final deal. For May to win the vote she will need severe arm twisting, silver-tongued salesmanship or a tragic accident involving a coach taking dissident MP’s on a mystery tour.
Theresa May and her cabinet do not give the impression of a canny negotiating team with all the answers and playing cards close to chests. Come the autumn vote what chance is there that they can put a clear case before the Commons? The content is almost irrelevant. Will they be able to explain convincingly what is going to happen in sufficient detail? We all know where the devil lurks? What MP is going to vote for waffle and fudge? Quite a few I suspect but I desperately hope that there will be enough integrity and backbone to vote down the vague aspirational twaddle they are likely to confront.