08 February 2018
Diary of a Corbynista
Eagerly anticipating the sweetness and light of Brexit Clarity
by Don Urquhart
Today it is reported that an Iranian-American married couple, Karan Vafadari and Afarin Neyssar have been sentenced to 27 and 16 years respectively for hosting parties attended by foreign diplomats and Iranian associates during which men and women mixed and alcohol was served.
Back in September 2016 Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was sentenced to 5 years in an Iranian prison. Foreign Secretary Johnson famously put his foot in his mouth last November to lengthen her stay. He was optimistic about his chances of extricating her before Christmas and there were rumours of financial inducements and other concessions. It is now February 2018 and Nazanin is no closer to returning home.
Bad news for all of us that Mr Johnson has taken to speaking out in support of the NHS.
You see the term “Momentum bullying” used by otherwise reasonable people. I do not deny that there might be bullies in Momentum’s ranks, possibly even at high levels. I really don’t know, just as I do not know who in Theresa May’s cabinet is kind to animals. It is an organisation of some 30,000 people in a total Labour Party membership of 600,000. People try to depict Momentum as a party within a party but nobody has evinced any evidence that they are any more sinister or opaque than the Fabians, Progress, the European Research Group or the many think tanks and lobbying groups around the place.
I voted for Jon Lansmann, Momentum’s founder in the recent NEC election because he supports the Labour Party manifesto.
The Scottish tail is wagging the dog yet again. The Good Law Project campaign group has asked the Edinburgh Court of Session whether they might ask the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to agree that the UK could unilaterally revoke Article 50.
Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator says that any decision by the UK to halt the Brexit process would need the unanimous agreement of all of the EU states. The campaigners want to test this at the ECJ.
The government’s lawyers argue that it is not government policy for Article 50 to be revoked, so we do not need to know the answer to the question of whether or not it can be.
Lord Doherty, representing the Edinburgh court, might not agree and is expected to announce his decision next week.
Andrew Marr interviewed Claire Kober this morning. She is the leader of Haringey Council until May when she plans to stand down. She is very bitter about her treatment by the Labour National Executive Committee (NEC). She claims to have been abused by party members and when asked why she did not make complaints to the Labour Party she said that she did not trust the NEC. At one point she characterised Momentum as anti-Semitic. The Haringey Development Vehicle project which she champions has been controversial from day one. The recent influx of new members into the local Labour Party has stiffened resistance and will almost certainly lead to changes in the composition of the council following the May elections. Ms Kober majored on her 10 years as head of the council but, going forward, the local party leader needs to have the support of the membership.
On Daily Politics today there was an item about the planned Corbyn Music Festival. Jo Coburn introduced as an expert on the topic, asking him his views. Marvellously he said it was the first he had heard of it and didn’t have a clue. There was then a discussion and I found myself in the unnerving position of agreeing with Luciana Berger, the Blairite MP who thought it was a bad idea to hold the Festival in North London. You might as well hand the next election to the Tories.
Chris Grayling is the Secretary of State for Transport. Three weeks ago, enmeshed in the Carillion crisis he wrote an article for Conservative Home:
We must never forget how badly nationalisation failed key public services
and flew off to Qatar. I dare say his air miles will be receiving another boost following his announcement that the government are allowing Stagecoach and Virgin to terminate the East Coast Mainline contract which they have run since 2015 and are now losing money on. The 2015 privatisation followed 6 years of successful operation under public ownership, after National Express found it was losing money on the franchise in 2009.
In the same speech, Mr Grayling also announced that Virgin had been re-awarded a contract to operate the West Coast Mainline rail service between London and Glasgow.
How can he spin that one?
Something to take Theresa May’s mind off Brexit in PMQ’s.
I’m not sure who announced it; the press reports just say that Downing Street has set its face against any sort of Customs Union with the EU. I’m guessing it didn’t come from Number 11. This should provide clarity but then they start muttering about staying aligned somehow so that you won’t need customs checks, and anyway if you do there are all sorts of swish technologies to recognise vehicles and check whether they are customs-cleared. The devil is surely in the detail and Theresa May, David Davis and co. have not shown themselves to be adept at mastering the tricky bits like social care policy in manifestos and where the sector analysis documents are. They are exceptional at presenting total chaos and dissent as success and harmony. Like David Cameron they will soon be off into the sunset leaving some other poor soul to clean up the mess.
Lord Doherty rejected the request made by the Good Law Project for leave to ask the ECJ whether the UK can unilaterally revoke Article 50.