At the end of a seventy-year reign, few people have anything but praise for the late Queen. It wasn’t always so. But now is not the time to remember the occasional lapses in concentration that brought criticism. Overall, she played a blinder.
Some would say the accession of the new King has gone without a hitch. But has it?
Pannick in Downing Street as Boris faces contempt charge
Blow me down with a feather. Boris Johnson and Lord Pannick QC have teamed up in a way, and at a time, that I didn’t see coming. Perhaps no one did! It would be more than I could bear not to weigh in on the subject of this unexpected coupling. I don’t think you should blame me for doing so. I hope that some of you might even welcome it.
An important decision is being made in a very ham-fisted way. It doesn’t have to be like this. Frankly, it shouldn’t be like this.
Compare the Eurovision audience’s delight at the banning of Russia with the behaviour of the two tennis bodies, ATP (men) and WTA (women). Both organisations currently adorn their websites with ribbons in the colours of Ukraine, but they have chosen to take action against Wimbledon for excluding Russian and Belarusian players from this year’s tournament.
Pretty much everyone seems to think the Chancellor’s wife got it wrong. But why?
When companies generate income around the world but are found to pay little tax in the UK, there is frequently an outcry that tax should be paid in the countries where the profits are generated, not the country where the company has its home. But when an individual does the same thing – the wife of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Akshata Murty, for example, taking advantage of the so-called “non-domicile” status – there is an outcry for the opposite to happen.
Reading reports from the BBC, Sky News or the Guardian, one could be forgiven for thinking that the judges had ruled that the police should have allowed the vigil for Sarah Everard to go ahead. They did not.
The judges decided only that, in arriving at their decision, assorted officers at varying levels of seniority messed up in different ways over several days. The court very deliberately stopped short of saying whether a correct analysis would have resulted in a different decision. That would, I think, have required the court to hear expert evidence from doctors, epidemiologists and mathematical modellers before applying its own jurisprudential expertise.
Far better, the court decided, that such matters be left to Scotland Yard on a Thursday afternoon before the Saturday evening vigil.
My Twitter feed contains way too many comments about proportional representation (PR). It’s my fault. I follow the wrong people. But a few weeks ago, I received a Christmas card from a treasured friend with a PR message in it. That was too much. (You know who you are. This post is for you. Everyone else can read on or skip past, just as they wish.)
It is well-known that MPs are not allowed to call each other “liars” in the House of Commons. When Labour MP, Dawn Butler, used the term in July of this year to describe the Prime Minister, she was asked by the chair of the debate to “reflect on your words and withdraw your remarks”. Ms Butler refused. The chair promptly ordered the MP to leave the House for the rest of the day, citing Standing Order 43.
There is nothing wrong with the Standing Order. It deals with “grossly disorderly” conduct. But there is a problem in the notion that MPs shouting and baying at each other, drowning out each other’s words, as happens frequently, is not a gross disorder, but quietly and patiently pointing out a lie is.
Words matter. That’s why we keep misquoting them. When criticising politicians, accuracy is treated as an optional extra. Faultfinders find it so much more fun, it seems, to repeat a misquote if, by doing so, they can make the powerful look silly.
Owen Paterson was not an innocent man, but he seems to have convinced himself that he was and – for a while, at least – he persuaded the Conservative hierarchy that his case provided ammunition to criticise the Parliamentary Standards process. The principles at issue are straightforward enough for most people to conclude that Paterson had done wrong. And yet the rules are complex enough for him to believe, fervently, that he had not and, worse, that the system had mistreated him. But it is not too difficult to pick one’s way through the conflicting arguments to see what lies within.