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Westlake Legal Group > Michael Gove MP

Sam Hall: Conservatives shouldn’t ridicule or rage against Extinction Rebellion. Instead, we should trump them with our own ideas.

Sam Hall is Director of the Conservative Environment Network

Last week, Extinction Rebellion triggered an important debate about the UK’s response to climate change and biodiversity loss. Many will disagree with their demands, particularly the 2025 net zero emissions target, which experts agree is unachievable. But there is much to admire in their passion for tackling these vital challenges of our time.

We should all share their urgency for stronger action, as there is no doubt that we must do more and faster to arrest these environmental crises. It is important that conservatives respond to Extinction Rebellion, not by ridiculing them, but by proposing our own ambitious, market-based policies for decarbonisation and nature restoration.

We should of course celebrate the strong conservative record on the environment, from Margaret Thatcher’s seminal speech on climate change at the UN General Assembly and her role in the global agreement to phase out ozone-depleting CFCs, to the recent world-leading net zero emissions target and coal phase-out policy. The UK as a country, and Conservatives as a political movement, have done more than most to tackle the major threats to our environment. Protesters do not give enough credit for what has been achieved to date.

But we cannot be complacent. There is much more to do. We are not yet on track to meet our 2050 net zero target or even the next two interim targets. Biodiversity loss continues at an alarming rate, with the most recent State of Nature report showing that 41 per cent of UK species have declined since 1970. Michael Gove rightly said a few months ago that the UK was “now among the most nature-depleted nations in the world”.

Just as the UK has fought illegal poaching to ensure that our grandchildren don’t grow up in a world without rhinos and lions, so too we should fight at home to protect our precious species that are under threat and start to restore those that we have lost.

We should be optimistic about conservatives’ enthusiasm for meeting these challenges. This year’s Conservative Party Conference showed that ministers, MPs, councillors, and members now firmly view the environment as a top priority. The Government’s first set of pre-conference announcements were all related to the environment: a £1 billion fund to support the development of the electric vehicle supply chain; stronger standards for energy efficiency and low-carbon heating in new homes; and a new forest in Northumberland.

The Conservative Environment Network hosted 16 events across the three days on a diverse set of green topics. These ranged from the potential for artificial intelligence to support net zero and the role of councils in tackling air pollution, to planting a new Northern Forest and British international leadership on the environment. Large numbers of enthusiastic Conservative activists of all ages and backgrounds, and from all parts of the country, attended and voiced their support for continued conservative environmental leadership.

Also at party conference, CEN launched a new network for Conservative councillors. From the front line of local politics, councillors reported how they are now facing fierce competition in their wards on environmental issues from Greens, Labour, and Liberal Democrats. Many have recently declared climate emergencies and set net zero targets for their areas. They now want to implement green conservative policies rather than copy the left’s solutions.

Encouragingly, there was a glut of green events hosted by centre-right think tanks, where speakers proposed and debated market-led solutions to climate change and the decline in nature. There was a dedicated ‘Environment Zone’ in the main exhibition space, placing the environment physically at the centre of the conference. And the party arranged a dedicated clean growth panel on the main stage, featuring four cabinet-level ministers.

The environment is a huge political opportunity for Conservatives. It is a unifying issue that could bring the conservative movement, and indeed the country, together post-Brexit. Moreover, as a result of the climate policies adopted by Labour at its conference, there is now the political space for conservatives to win.

Labour has proposed sweeping renationalisation of much of the energy sector and a 2030 net zero target. A 2030 net zero target is unfeasible and ignores the advice of the independent experts on the Committee on Climate Change, while nationalisation would deter additional private-sector investment in our already world-leading clean energy sectors such as offshore wind and increase the cost of net zero for consumers by increasing risk for investors and reducing competition.

In the run-up to hosting the international climate summit in Glasgow next year, the Government should bring forward a major package of climate and nature policies to showcase conservative environmental leadership. These could include additional auctions to build new offshore wind farms, an incentive scheme for land owners to plant trees and restore peat bogs on their land, and private-sector-led infrastructure programmes for home insulation and electric vehicle charge points.

The conservative movement has never been as enthused by environmental issues as it is now. We must harness this energy and translate it into an enduring conservative legacy through market-led solutions to these pressing environmental challenges.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Javid keeps the gold but Johnson and Rees-Mogg fail to medal in our Cabinet League Table

Westlake Legal Group Cabinet-League-Table-Sep-19-1024x956 Javid keeps the gold but Johnson and Rees-Mogg fail to medal in our Cabinet League Table ToryDiary Thérèse Coffey MP Theresa Villiers MP Steve Barclay MP Sajid Javid MP Robert Jenrick MP Robert Buckland MP Rishi Sunak MP Priti Patel MP Paul Davies AM Oliver Dowden MP Nicky Morgan MP Natalie Evans (Baroness) Michael Gove MP Matthew Hancock MP Mark Spencer MP Liz Truss MP Kwasi Kwarteng MP Julian Smith MP James Cleverly MP Jake Berry MP Jacob Rees-Mogg MP Grant Shapps MP Geoffrey Cox MP Gavin Williamson MP Esther McVey MP Elizabeth Truss MP Dominic Raab MP ConservativeHome Members' Panel Brandon Lewis MP Boris Johnson MP Ben Wallace MP Andrea Leadsom MP Alun Cairns MP Alok Sharma MP Alister Jack MP

Another month in and once again the Johnson Ministry appears to be holding fairly steady in the affections of grassroots activists.

There has been a slight downward drift, illustrated by the top scores no longer breaking the plus-80 barrier, but there are no ministers with negative scores and compared to the tail end of Theresa May’s time in office these are healthy scores.

Yet is it the calm before the storm? We are now only a month away from the October 31 Brexit deadline, which the Prime Minister insists he’s going to meet but nobody can really see how he can. Our next survey will be conducted as he runs into that tempest – it will be interesting to see what affect it has.

A few details:

  • Javid gold again… The Chancellor has seen his score slip a little but, as that is in line with the overall trend, he remains the most popular member of the Government amongst party members for the third month in a row.
  • …as Johnson slips… Last month the Prime Minister was ranked second by our panellists and just a couple of points shy of Javid. This month he slips to sixth after losing more than 12 points. Is this simply a response to various stories this month, or a foretaste of a backlash next month?
  • …and Rees-Mogg stumbles. It’s been an even worse month for the Leader of the House, who has fallen from a bronze-medal position last month to 11th place now after a fall of almost 15 points.
  • …but Brexiteers benefit. The beneficiaries of the above moves are principally Michael Gove, Geoffrey Cox, Dominic Raab, and Stephen Barclay. It is not until Liz Truss, in tenth position, that we find a Remainer.
  • Two departures. It’s goodbye to Amber Rudd and Jo Johnson, who both resigned from the Cabinet this month, and hello to Thérèse Coffey, who takes over from Rudd at Work & Pensions. Johnson’s successor, Chris Skidmore, is not attending Cabinet.
  • Wallace rebounds. Last month we asked what might have caused the Defence Secretary to suddenly slump to near the bottom of the table. Whatever it was, it’s passed – he’s now just below Rees-Mogg after gaining 20 points.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Andrew Gimson’s Conference sketch: The Foreign Secretary trumped by Rees-Mogg the Tory Democrat

Westlake Legal Group L1040961 Andrew Gimson’s Conference sketch: The Foreign Secretary trumped by Rees-Mogg the Tory Democrat ToryDiary Tory Democracy Sir Keir Starmer MP Shakespeare Michael Heseltine Michael Gove MP Lord Randolph Churchill Liberal Democrats Jeremy Corbyn MP Jacob Rees-Mogg MP Hong Kong Dominic Raab MP Conservative Party Conference Benjamin Disraeli

 

 

Dominic Raab entered to a brief and polite standing ovation. But could he, in his first conference speech as Foreign Secretary, change the torpid Sunday afternoon atmosphere in the hall?

Successful conference oratory does not work by politeness. It relies on being wonderfully rude, monumentally impertinent, about your opponents. Michael Heseltine is the greatest modern exponent of the style.

Raab looked around for someone to be rude about. He remarked that “we Brits” are warmly welcomed almost everywhere.

“OK, maybe not in Luxembourg.” That went down quite well. He followed it up: “I think the British people have had more than enough of EU leaders disrespecting British Prime Ministers.”

Applause. Brexit is the way to stir this audience. The Foreign Secretary veered, however, into high-mindedness, and said that in future, “our foreign policy should be guided by a clear moral compass”.

This may be true, but it did not make any hearts beat faster. He turned for a moment to attack a more powerful opponent: “We won’t look the other way, when the people of Hong Kong are beaten indiscriminately on commuter trains for exercising the right to peaceful protest.”

That too was well received. It was not, however, followed by any further jibes at the regime in Beijing.

Raab decided he would rather maintain the ancient tradition of makes jibes at the expense of the Labour Party: “There are some things even bigger than Brexit, and keeping that lot out of Downing Street is one of them.”

Applause. “And as for the Liberal Democrats,” he went on. “Neither liberal nor democratic,” the lady sitting behind me remarked. Raab said, “no one ever accused the Liberal Democrats of consistency, but when it comes to offences under the Trade Description Act, they’re guilty as charged.”

Not in the Heseltine class, but he is treading in an as yet too gingerly manner in the right direction.

Michael Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, spoke with the exaggerated vigour which is required in this hall, where the sound seeps away through black curtains.

But he said nothing very memorable, and the star of the show was Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Leader of the House, greeted with whoops and cheers, for here at last was someone the poor bloody infantry knew would raise their spirits.

Rees-Mogg observed that “there seems to be some enthusiasm”, and suggested more of his constituents from North East Somerset must have turned up than expected.

He gave us Disraeli, Lord Randolph Churchill, Gulliver’s Travels, Georgie Porgie pudding and pie, and a picture of Jeremy Corbyn all the more damning because it was charitable: “I do not believe him to be a bad man, but he is a weak man.”

And behind Corbyn stands Sir Keir Starmer, “poised, Brutus-like, three feet back, stiletto in hand, awaiting the moment to strike”.

Here at last was the theatre of politics, based on an original script by William Shakespeare, with additional material by John Dryden, for Rees-Mogg, well into his stride by now, flung one of that poet’s most celebrated couplets at Starmer:

In friendship false, implacable in hate,
Resolved to ruin or to rule the state.

The hall loved this. Like Disraeli, and the present Prime Minister, Rees-Mogg is an exponent of Tory Democracy, that alliance between the ruling class and the working class which makes Gladstonian prigs, and their descendants, choke with moral indignation.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Cameron’s Blairite apologia shows that he did not understand Eurosceptic passion

For the Record by David Cameron

This memoir is both too short and too long. The author tells us too little about himself. The one exception to this rule is the chapter called Our Darling Ivan, about the life and death of David and Samantha Cameron’s eldest child.

It is the best chapter in the book, ending with words written by Wordsworth when his own son died, which are inscribed on Ivan’s grave at Chadlington, in Oxfordshire:

“I loved the Boy with the utmost love of which my soul is capable, and he is taken from me – yet in the agony of my spirit in surrendering such a treasure I feel a thousand times richer than if I had never possessed it.”

No one can read this account, already excerpted in The Sunday Times, without feeling moved. One of the ways in which Cameron coped with unbearable sadness was by talking and now writing about it.

Rather characteristically, he takes the chance to pass on several pieces of admirably practical advice about how to navigate the National Health Service, something most of us have to do at one time or another as the champion of someone who is in no condition to find his or her own way.

No author is obliged to invade his own privacy, but on most other aspects of his family Cameron is frustratingly brief and reticent. His mother’s first cousin Ferdinand Mount, who was head of Margaret Thatcher’s policy unit, relates in his memoir Cold Cream, published in 2008 – the funniest account anyone has written of what it was like to work for her – that one day, while deep in the appalling task of rewriting her party conference speech, he was annoyed to be told his “nephew” was there to see him.

This turned out to be the young David Cameron, who wished to interview him for the school magazine and had rung the office himself to make an appointment after Mount had given a noncommittal but generally rather discouraging reply when contacted by Cameron’s mother. As Mount writes,

“Here he was, my cousin rather than nephew then just sixteen, looking pink and perky, not yet the size he grew to but abounding in self-confidence. He instantly put me at my ease and his genial chutzpah dissolved my ill-humour in a trice…

“It is his audacity – or cheek, to use a homelier word – that has done the trick. It took cheek out of the common run to stand for the leadership of the party after only four years in Parliament, but it took even more to set about transforming the party the moment he won…

“The chutzpah that has propelled Cousin Dave to such startling heights undoubtedly comes from his stalwart and irrepressible father Ian on whom no flies rest…”

David Cameron devotes a couple of pages to his father, a remarkable man who had been “born with a pretty odd deformity”, legs far shorter than they should have been, but who rose, like his father and grandfather before him, to become senior partner at the stockbrokers Panmure Gordon, and who imparted to his four children various rules, some of which expressed an admirably practical morality: “If you’re not sure what to do, just do the right thing.”

Other maxims are described by his son as “obscure”:

“Never sleep with a virgin.” “Don’t get married till you’re 26.” “Never eat baked beans for breakfast.” “Always travel in a suit.”

Cameron the politician succeeded in part because he was heir to a tradition of behaviour. But although he describes his family with affection, he does not convey, or even try to convey, very much of what it was really like.

He has said in the past that when he thinks of home, he thinks of church. His parents lived in an old rectory and attended the church next door, indeed were church wardens and so forth.

We read nothing here of this Anglican upbringing, which seems to me to have contributed in a vital way to Cameron’s ability to strike a moral note, without sounding repellently dogmatic or pious.

Perhaps he thought his religion too hard to explain, however natural the practice of it may be, or perhaps he reckoned we would be more interested in his politics.

But where do the politics come from? In the best biographies, the reader begins to see how a character was formed, what made it original or eccentric – the kind of thing that can be glimpsed in Ian Cameron’s maxims.

Here we are fobbed off with banalities:

“How are the biggest decisions made? They are usually rooted in convictions and beliefs. They tend to be contemplated for a long time, but are often expedited by circumstances. They are frequently influenced by other people’s views, and events that have taken place over many years.

“One of the biggest decisions I would ever take – to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the European Union and then hold a referendum on our membership – was an example of all those things.”

That is how chapter 29, entitled “Bloomberg”, begins. Such evasive management-speak makes the book longer than it should be, and warns us we are never going to get to the heart of the matter.

In January 2013 Cameron delivered the speech at Bloomberg in which he promised to hold an EU referendum by the middle of the next Parliament. He remarks here that “The speech was tricky to land with so many audiences.”

And he gives us an extract from one of the tapes he recorded every month or so with the Times journalist Danny Finkelstein, in which the Prime Minister confided that it was safer to hold a referendum than to hold out against one: “The risks of playing with fire are now safer than watching the fire burn.”

He is pleased by the way The Times comments on the speech: “Mr Cameron has not caused a problem, but elucidated one.”

All this is fine, but we are not even told who wrote that Times leader: was it Finkelstein?

A friend of mine, a German journalist, who heard the Bloomberg speech happened to be sitting directly behind the German ambassador, at whom Cameron looked repeatedly while delivering it.

There is very little of that kind of thing in the book. For most of the time, the author gives us no sense that he is taking us into his confidence. He is instead fobbing us off with a plausible, lucid, official version of how he tried to keep Britain inside the EU, by renegotiating the terms of our membership and then obtaining popular consent for the new deal:

“The strategy failed. I failed. And that strategy has had some serious consequences for the UK and Europe. But it all flowed from an attempt to do the right thing.”

That is a very Blairite apologia. Cameron acted in good faith. He was, however, dependent on the Germans if he was going to get a meaningful renegotiation.

And one of the things he needed them to do in 2014 was to block the appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker, “a European integrationist to the core”, as President of the European Commission, a figure who would have a key influence on Britain’s ability to change the terms of membership.

At first, there seems some hope that Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, will block Juncker.  The last chance comes in June 2014 when Cameron, Merkel and the Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, visit the Swedish Prime Minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, who for the benefit of the cameras takes them out in a rowing boat.

Now, unusually, Cameron gives us a small amount of detail:

“The four of us sat up after dinner, drinking red wine, this time until 2 a.m. I was tired, but didn’t dare leave in case they cooked something up without me. We were waiting for those magical words from Merkel – ‘It’s all right, we’ll block this guy together.’ She got close, but they never came.

“By the next morning her team had got to her, and she said she was going to have to vote for Juncker.’

Even by Cameron’s account, the chances of Merkel doing what he wants seem remote. She had already warned him, at a meeting a week earlier at the British ambassador’s residence in Brussels when they “sat up drinking until about 1.30 a.m.”, that “I think I’m going to have to let you down”. Even her own mother has rung her “to tell her to vote for Juncker”.

By page 655 of this 703-page book, Cameron’s own colleagues are having to decide which side to back in the referendum campaign, and he is finding it surprisingly difficult to persuade Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and others to stay with him:

“Perhaps that is one of the biggest pitfalls in politics. Thinking that others, particularly those you know well, think like you. Often they don’t. In the weeks to come I would repeatedly be surprised by MPs, friends, local party members and councillors who I had never heard express the view that we should leave the EU waxing lyrical about how it was their passion. I don’t mean to say that they were all opportunists, more that I had given them the chance to think about the issue afresh, and they had decided to take that position…

“The latent Leaver gene in the Tory Party was more dominant than I had foreseen.”

On the evidence of this book, Cameron spent little time talking to Conservatives who disagreed with him about Europe. Many of them are omitted altogether from this account, or mentioned only fleetingly.

It was understandable that Cameron should ask his MPs to stop banging on about Europe, to the exclusion of other subjects which mattered more to most voters.

But this suppression of the subject led him grievously to underestimate the vitality of the Eurosceptic tradition. He became lost in the politics of endless negotiation with the Liberal Democrats and the EU.

He was so good at this, and the country was in many ways so well run by the coalition which he, George Osborne, Oliver Letwin, Ed Llewellyn and others conducted from 2010, that in 2015 he won an overall majority for the Conservatives, the first time the party had managed that since 1992.

This was a major achievement, and one which would probably have proved beyond any of the other contenders for the leadership in 2005, when with the audacity identified by Mount, but seldom visible in this unexciting book, Cameron came through the field and won.

As a moderniser he inspired confidence in part because he was from such a traditional background. Many people liked that.

And he was a professional: his early training in the Conservative Research Department, about which he says nothing of interest here, had given him a precocious mastery of the techniques of government, and a coterie of able colleagues who could help him to wield power.

But what was power for? Here the Cameroon trumpet gave an uncertain sound, and still does. As a manual of technique, and of how to find a way through various tricky problems, this book is of considerable value.

It also, however, shows a man oblivious to the strong emotions which would be awoken by the referendum, and unable, when the time came, to make more than a prudential case for his side of the argument.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Cameron’s Blairite apologia shows that he did not understand Eurosceptic passion

For the Record by David Cameron

This memoir is both too short and too long. The author tells us too little about himself. The one exception to this rule is the chapter called Our Darling Ivan, about the life and death of David and Samantha Cameron’s eldest child.

It is the best chapter in the book, ending with words written by Wordsworth when his own son died, which are inscribed on Ivan’s grave at Chadlington, in Oxfordshire:

“I loved the Boy with the utmost love of which my soul is capable, and he is taken from me – yet in the agony of my spirit in surrendering such a treasure I feel a thousand times richer than if I had never possessed it.”

No one can read this account, already excerpted in The Sunday Times, without feeling moved. One of the ways in which Cameron coped with unbearable sadness was by talking and now writing about it.

Rather characteristically, he takes the chance to pass on several pieces of admirably practical advice about how to navigate the National Health Service, something most of us have to do at one time or another as the champion of someone who is in no condition to find his or her own way.

No author is obliged to invade his own privacy, but on most other aspects of his family Cameron is frustratingly brief and reticent. His mother’s first cousin Ferdinand Mount, who was head of Margaret Thatcher’s policy unit, relates in his memoir Cold Cream, published in 2008 – the funniest account anyone has written of what it was like to work for her – that one day, while deep in the appalling task of rewriting her party conference speech, he was annoyed to be told his “nephew” was there to see him.

This turned out to be the young David Cameron, who wished to interview him for the school magazine and had rung the office himself to make an appointment after Mount had given a noncommittal but generally rather discouraging reply when contacted by Cameron’s mother. As Mount writes,

“Here he was, my cousin rather than nephew then just sixteen, looking pink and perky, not yet the size he grew to but abounding in self-confidence. He instantly put me at my ease and his genial chutzpah dissolved my ill-humour in a trice…

“It is his audacity – or cheek, to use a homelier word – that has done the trick. It took cheek out of the common run to stand for the leadership of the party after only four years in Parliament, but it took even more to set about transforming the party the moment he won…

“The chutzpah that has propelled Cousin Dave to such startling heights undoubtedly comes from his stalwart and irrepressible father Ian on whom no flies rest…”

David Cameron devotes a couple of pages to his father, a remarkable man who had been “born with a pretty odd deformity”, legs far shorter than they should have been, but who rose, like his father and grandfather before him, to become senior partner at the stockbrokers Panmure Gordon, and who imparted to his four children various rules, some of which expressed an admirably practical morality: “If you’re not sure what to do, just do the right thing.”

Other maxims are described by his son as “obscure”:

“Never sleep with a virgin.” “Don’t get married till you’re 26.” “Never eat baked beans for breakfast.” “Always travel in a suit.”

Cameron the politician succeeded in part because he was heir to a tradition of behaviour. But although he describes his family with affection, he does not convey, or even try to convey, very much of what it was really like.

He has said in the past that when he thinks of home, he thinks of church. His parents lived in an old rectory and attended the church next door, indeed were church wardens and so forth.

We read nothing here of this Anglican upbringing, which seems to me to have contributed in a vital way to Cameron’s ability to strike a moral note, without sounding repellently dogmatic or pious.

Perhaps he thought his religion too hard to explain, however natural the practice of it may be, or perhaps he reckoned we would be more interested in his politics.

But where do the politics come from? In the best biographies, the reader begins to see how a character was formed, what made it original or eccentric – the kind of thing that can be glimpsed in Ian Cameron’s maxims.

Here we are fobbed off with banalities:

“How are the biggest decisions made? They are usually rooted in convictions and beliefs. They tend to be contemplated for a long time, but are often expedited by circumstances. They are frequently influenced by other people’s views, and events that have taken place over many years.

“One of the biggest decisions I would ever take – to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the European Union and then hold a referendum on our membership – was an example of all those things.”

That is how chapter 29, entitled “Bloomberg”, begins. Such evasive management-speak makes the book longer than it should be, and warns us we are never going to get to the heart of the matter.

In January 2013 Cameron delivered the speech at Bloomberg in which he promised to hold an EU referendum by the middle of the next Parliament. He remarks here that “The speech was tricky to land with so many audiences.”

And he gives us an extract from one of the tapes he recorded every month or so with the Times journalist Danny Finkelstein, in which the Prime Minister confided that it was safer to hold a referendum than to hold out against one: “The risks of playing with fire are now safer than watching the fire burn.”

He is pleased by the way The Times comments on the speech: “Mr Cameron has not caused a problem, but elucidated one.”

All this is fine, but we are not even told who wrote that Times leader: was it Finkelstein?

A friend of mine, a German journalist, who heard the Bloomberg speech happened to be sitting directly behind the German ambassador, at whom Cameron looked repeatedly while delivering it.

There is very little of that kind of thing in the book. For most of the time, the author gives us no sense that he is taking us into his confidence. He is instead fobbing us off with a plausible, lucid, official version of how he tried to keep Britain inside the EU, by renegotiating the terms of our membership and then obtaining popular consent for the new deal:

“The strategy failed. I failed. And that strategy has had some serious consequences for the UK and Europe. But it all flowed from an attempt to do the right thing.”

That is a very Blairite apologia. Cameron acted in good faith. He was, however, dependent on the Germans if he was going to get a meaningful renegotiation.

And one of the things he needed them to do in 2014 was to block the appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker, “a European integrationist to the core”, as President of the European Commission, a figure who would have a key influence on Britain’s ability to change the terms of membership.

At first, there seems some hope that Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, will block Juncker.  The last chance comes in June 2014 when Cameron, Merkel and the Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, visit the Swedish Prime Minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, who for the benefit of the cameras takes them out in a rowing boat.

Now, unusually, Cameron gives us a small amount of detail:

“The four of us sat up after dinner, drinking red wine, this time until 2 a.m. I was tired, but didn’t dare leave in case they cooked something up without me. We were waiting for those magical words from Merkel – ‘It’s all right, we’ll block this guy together.’ She got close, but they never came.

“By the next morning her team had got to her, and she said she was going to have to vote for Juncker.’

Even by Cameron’s account, the chances of Merkel doing what he wants seem remote. She had already warned him, at a meeting a week earlier at the British ambassador’s residence in Brussels when they “sat up drinking until about 1.30 a.m.”, that “I think I’m going to have to let you down”. Even her own mother has rung her “to tell her to vote for Juncker”.

By page 655 of this 703-page book, Cameron’s own colleagues are having to decide which side to back in the referendum campaign, and he is finding it surprisingly difficult to persuade Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and others to stay with him:

“Perhaps that is one of the biggest pitfalls in politics. Thinking that others, particularly those you know well, think like you. Often they don’t. In the weeks to come I would repeatedly be surprised by MPs, friends, local party members and councillors who I had never heard express the view that we should leave the EU waxing lyrical about how it was their passion. I don’t mean to say that they were all opportunists, more that I had given them the chance to think about the issue afresh, and they had decided to take that position…

“The latent Leaver gene in the Tory Party was more dominant than I had foreseen.”

On the evidence of this book, Cameron spent little time talking to Conservatives who disagreed with him about Europe. Many of them are omitted altogether from this account, or mentioned only fleetingly.

It was understandable that Cameron should ask his MPs to stop banging on about Europe, to the exclusion of other subjects which mattered more to most voters.

But this suppression of the subject led him grievously to underestimate the vitality of the Eurosceptic tradition. He became lost in the politics of endless negotiation with the Liberal Democrats and the EU.

He was so good at this, and the country was in many ways so well run by the coalition which he, George Osborne, Oliver Letwin, Ed Llewellyn and others conducted from 2010, that in 2015 he won an overall majority for the Conservatives, the first time the party had managed that since 1992.

This was a major achievement, and one which would probably have proved beyond any of the other contenders for the leadership in 2005, when with the audacity identified by Mount, but seldom visible in this unexciting book, Cameron came through the field and won.

As a moderniser he inspired confidence in part because he was from such a traditional background. Many people liked that.

And he was a professional: his early training in the Conservative Research Department, about which he says nothing of interest here, had given him a precocious mastery of the techniques of government, and a coterie of able colleagues who could help him to wield power.

But what was power for? Here the Cameroon trumpet gave an uncertain sound, and still does. As a manual of technique, and of how to find a way through various tricky problems, this book is of considerable value.

It also, however, shows a man oblivious to the strong emotions which would be awoken by the referendum, and unable, when the time came, to make more than a prudential case for his side of the argument.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Daniel Hannan: Cameron maligns Brexiteers because he misunderstands them

Daniel Hannan is an MEP for South-East England, and a journalist, author and broadcaster. His most recent book is What Next: How to Get the Best from Brexit.

Everyone agrees that David Cameron made a terrible blunder when he called the referendum. Everyone, that is, except the country at large.

Journalists and politicians, civil servants and diplomats, subscribers to the Economist and the Financial Times, half-clever readers who get their opinions downstream from the Davos schmoozefest – all these people tell each other that the Brexit referendum was the worst mistake any British leader has made since the loss of the Americas. All forget how widespread the desire for a referendum was in 2015.

The Liberal Democrats, who now say that Cameron’s decision was “unforgiveable”, were demanding an In/Out referendum long before he was. Jo Swinson, along with the rest, told us as long ago as 2008 that only “a referendum on the major issue of in or out of Europe” would do. By 2013, plenty of Labour and Conservative MPs were taking the same line, largely in response to pressure from their constituents. There is no dishonour here: it is how a democracy is supposed to work.

Oddly, Cameron appears to have adopted the world-view of his critics. He defends his decision to call a referendum, but he does so…well, defensively. The line he takes in his memoirs is, in effect, that the referendum was forced on him by a combination of public demand and EU inflexibility. He had no choice but to go to the country, though he bitterly regrets the result. He reveals that he phoned EU leaders, as well as Barack Obama, to apologise for the way people voted. He still beats himself up about the whole thing.

For what it’s worth, I have always felt the former Prime Minister gets a tough rap. We forget the state the country was in when he took over: Gordon Brown had left us with a higher deficit than Greece’s. Cameron brought us back from the brink calmly and unfussily. Since stepping down, he has behaved with dignity – unlike, it must be said, every other living former Prime Minister. True, the timing of his memoirs is unfortunate, but that is hardly his fault: Brexit was supposed to have been done and dusted by now.

One thing, though, leaps out of Cameron’s book. He never really got Euroscepticism or Eurosceptics. He sees opposition to European amalgamation as an eccentricity verging on a mild mental disorder. The idea that it might matter to people more than, say, party loyalty leaves him genuinely nonplussed: “Michael [Gove] had backed something he did perhaps believe in, but in the process had broken with his friends and supporters,” he writes, in unfeigned bewilderment.

Gove did indeed pay a high price, because he was convinced that Britain would be better off outside the EU. He acted, in other words, from principle. But Cameron can’t understand how anyone could feel that way, and so puts it down to some sort of character flaw.

Similarly, he writes of the present Prime Minister: “Boris had become fixated on whether we could pass legislation that said UK law was ultimately supreme over EU law.”

It doesn’t seem to occur to him that this question – the essence of what it means to be an independent country – might genuinely matter. Johnson, we are invited to assume, cannot truly have cared about what Cameron describes as the “bugbear of the most evangelical Eurosceptics”. The only explanation for his behaviour, the former leader implies, is careerism.

In fact, Johnson – a long-standing critic of Euro-federalism – was tortured by the sovereignty question. I know, because I spent much of 2015 trying to persuade him to come out for Leave. Never once did he give any indication that he was weighing up which side would win. On the contrary, he kept coming back to the issue of legal primacy. If we could settle that then, as far as he was concerned, we could put up with the rest. But if we couldn’t, then staying in the EU would mean, over time, becoming a European province.

I am pretty sure that, if Cameron had been able to address this issue – the issue that had been the sticking point for Tony Benn, Enoch Powell, Hugh Gaitskell and the other Eurosceptic Long Marchers – he would have won the support, not just of Johnson and Gove, but of the majority of the electorate. But he could never see the problem. He couldn’t – and he still can’t – believe that anyone is genuinely bothered by what he sees as an absurd and abstruse abstraction. No wonder he feels hurt.

Sadly, in his annoyance, he reruns the referendum campaign, angrily accusing the other side of dishonesty. And here, I’m afraid, he diminishes himself. After all, we can all remember that, right up until February 2016, he was solemnly declaring that, if he didn’t get the reforms he wanted, he would recommend a Leave vote. Now he says that will always blame himself for the “enormity” of withdrawal. At least he uses that word correctly, to mean dreadfulness rather than enormousness. But how are we to square that maudlin statement with his previous assurances that he would lead us out if he couldn’t tweak our membership terms? One of the two statements must be untrue.

We all have self-serving biases, of course. We all give ourselves the benefit of the doubt. When Cameron looks back at his previous promises, he doubtless sees them, not as lies, but as part of a standard political campaign. Here, for example, is how he explains his decision to resign as Prime Minister: “Why had I promised I would stay on if we lost? If I had admitted that there was any chance of my stepping down if remain lost, I would have jeopardised the referendum entirely.”

To which I say, “fair enough”. There is a difference between putting the best spin on your intentions during a campaign and calculated mendacity. The word “lie” should, in my view, be reserved for bigger offences than Cameron’s. It’s just that, with such a record, he should think twice before using the word “lie” about what was very obviously an honest mistake in one interview by Penny Mordaunt about whether Britain could veto Turkish accession.

More significant is the question of why he didn’t manage to get a better deal from the EU. This is the question that Remainers almost invariably avoid.

Had Cameron come back with any retrieval of power or, indeed, with a sovereignty amendment of the sort that Gove and Johnson had wanted, he would have won the referendum. But the EU was readier to lose its second financial contributor than to allow any diminution of its federal aspirations.

That inflexibility was the proximate cause of Brexit. It helps explain why, after the vote, it proved so hard for the two sides to agree on a common-market-not-common-government type of association. It remains the biggest barrier to a deal. Yet, bizarrely, it is hardly ever discussed. Even now, many Remainers would rather rail against the other side than face up to the reality of what the EU is turning into. The electorate as a whole, though, knows better.

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Is “private correspondence” truly private?

In the ongoing search of every constitutional nook and cranny for potential tactics to deploy against the Government, Dominic Grieve and his colleagues provoked an angry row by seeking to require nine named individuals to release correspondence on private channels relating to prorogation.

The battle lines write themselves. One side declares that it seeks only truth, and there’s definitely no element of wishing to intimidate, disrupt or harass the specific named people it is picking out, your honour. The other denounces the effort as an outrageous intrusion into personal privacy, an assault on civil liberties, and an effort to make Government an impossibly hostile environment in which to operate.

You may already have a preferred side in the debate; but the truth lies somewhere between the two.

First, the actual rules. The sought messages are widely described as “private correspondence”, meaning that (if they exist at all) they are alleged to be privately held, through personal accounts on various platforms, and on personal phones and computers. But there are circumstances in which such material can still legally be considered public.

To understand this, we need to look back to the early days of the Coalition. In particular to the Department for Education, between 2010 and 2012. Then the Financial Times and the DfE fought a lengthy battle over exactly this question: were ‘private” messages really private if they related to public officials doing their official work?

The battleground then was Freedom of Information – a journalist used the FOI Act to request emails which he knew existed, between named individuals (including Dominic Cummings, just like Grieve’s proposal). The Department replied that it did not hold the data – which was true, because it was held in private inboxes hosted by whichever email providers were being used.

The FT’s case was that this was a failure of the Department to hold (and thereby disclose) all the required data on its official work, not a failure of the FOI request. Ultimately, the Information Commissioner upheld the journalist’s appeal, and defined public employees discussing public work, no matter the medium used, to be public domain, not private correspondence.

So this might be correspondence on private media, but if it’s on an official topic discussing public work, then it would generally fall under the definition of disclosable public data.

That isn’t the end of the story, however. As Sam Freedman – then a DfE civil servant, and also one of the people whose supposed correspondence was sought under that FOI request – notes, the ruling was clear on the theory but the practice was more blurry: the disclosure was never successfully enforced.

There may yet be legalistic skirmishing over this different route to demand similar publication. But even if it succeeds on paper, it might well run up against the same issue.

Whose job is it to enforce Parliament’s resolution? By what means will Grieve secure the passwords to the named individuals’ phones, email accounts, WhatsApp accounts, Signol accounts, Facebook accounts? In what way will he or his enforcement agents ascertain that they have got all correspondence from all of the nine? I can chat to people via a messenger built in to Words With Friends, have chats with other players on Call of Duty, or whistle coded messages as I pass someone’s house while on a stroll – how is it proposed for Parliament to capture all these possibilities and more?

It’s at this point, of practical implementation, that the civil liberties issues which don’t seem to apply in terms of the messages being “private” do actually start to bite.

And that’s before we wonder what the model is for adjudicating whether disclosed (or seized) data is indeed relevant to the official’s public duties or not. Would the assumption be that everything on all their possible correspondence media should be collected and pores over? Again, who by? Grieve himself? The Information Commissioner? The Cabinet Office?

Now that threatens an invasion of privacy and trampling important rights.

From the invasive prospect of strangers riffling through messages to their partners or pictures of their children or personal financial information, through to the politically controversial idea of leaky officials or even one’s opponents getting access to records of separate but sensitive conversations with the press or one’s party colleaghes, it doesn’t have to go very far before it starts feeling rather hazardous. We must assume those hazards are unintended, rather than a deliberate form of intimidation of those being targeted, but they are undesirable nonetheless.

It seems unlikely that Grieve would be satisfied to let the subjects of the proposal sift messages for disclosure themselves. But the alternative is both impractical and unpalatable.

Even in systems where there is a structure for such tasks – like the workings of the police and CPS when investigating crimes – the job is hard, intrusive, open to misuse, and very controversial. Here, there isn’t a structure or system at all.

If Parliament really wants such a principle, it seems irresponsible and ineffective at best to vote for the desired outcome without any preparation for or consideration of securing it reasonably and successfully.

Even some of those former Tory MPs who lost the Whip last week appear to be aware of these dangers. They haven’t criticised the idea publicly, but it seems unlikely to be a coincidence that former ministers like Rory Stewart and Caroline Nokes voted against Grieve’s measure, while others including Philip Hammond abstained. They know how government works and can presumably imagine some of the downsides of such a tactic.

It also, of course, risks opening this field to tit for tat retaliation. The former Chancellor might perhaps not be that keen for his own ex-advisers to be made to submit to such a trawl on, for example, preparations (or lack of) for No Deal.

Sometimes there is a difference between what you can do and what you should do. Much of Conservatism rests on that principle, and it’s one Dominic Grieve himself has in the past been quite sympathetic towards. It’s telling that even some of his allies on the Brexit issue seem to think he’s on the wrong side of the line this time.

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Javid, Johnson, and Rees-Mogg hold their podium slots in our Cabinet League Table

Westlake Legal Group Cabinet-League-Table-Aug-19-1024x954 Javid, Johnson, and Rees-Mogg hold their podium slots in our Cabinet League Table ToryDiary Theresa Villiers MP Steve Barclay MP Sajid Javid MP Robert Jenrick MP Robert Buckland MP Rishi Sunak MP Priti Patel MP Paul Davies AM Oliver Dowden MP Nicky Morgan MP Natalie Evans (Baroness) Michael Gove MP Matthew Hancock MP Mark Spencer MP Kwasi Kwarteng MP Julian Smith MP Jo Johnson MP James Cleverly MP Jake Berry MP Jacob Rees-Mogg MP Grant Shapps MP Geoffrey Cox MP Gavin Williamson MP Esther McVey MP Elizabeth Truss MP Dominic Raab MP ConservativeHome Members' Panel Brandon Lewis MP Boris Johnson MP Ben Wallace MP Andrea Leadsom MP Amber Rudd MP Alun Cairns MP Alok Sharma MP Alister Jack MP   Last month we published our first Cabinet League Table of the Johnson Ministry. It offered a sea-change from Theresa May’s embattled government, both in terms of composition and the estimation in which party members held it.

One month on and the general picture hasn’t really changed. If anything, over August there was a general upward drift in the scores, reflecting what many commentators – including our own Mark Wallace – thought was a very strong start in the role.

It goes without saying that the data for this was collected prior to the return of the Commons and the Government’s miserable week therein. We might therefore anticipate a quite different set of results in October.

Here are a few of the details:

  • Post-Ruth politics. Our survey was front-page news in Scotland last month when it showed the Scottish Conservative leader, so often one of the most highly-rated individuals, down to a positive score of just +14. Perhaps it was an omen of things to come, because Ruth Davidson has since stepped aside, triggering a battle for the future of the Party in Scotland.
  • Javid tops the poll again. The Chancellor puts on four points to take his score into the mid-Eighties. This suggests that activists are either untroubled by the Government’s decision to move away from spending restraint, which Sajid Javid is by necessity spearheading, or are at least not holding it against him.
  • Johnson and Rees-Mogg fill out the podium. No change in the ordering of any of the top three, and both the Prime Minister and Leader of the House have put on about five points to their score.
  • Gove climbs… The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is climbing the ranks. But will his ongoing defence of May’s deal, and reports that he is leading the charge against Johnson’s disciplining of anti-No Deal rebels, put a dent in his score next month?
  • …as does Cleverly. Of course small changes in position may not be terribly significant, but the Party Chairman is nonetheless one of the most popular politicians in the survey. If this continues it can’t hurt his chances of being offered a Cabinet brief in a future reshuffle.
  • What happened to Wallace? In a survey which generally saw very little movement – save for two outright departures – there are a couple of obvious exceptions. Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, has seen his score drop by over ten points and now languishes near the bottom of the table.
  • Williamson wins members over. The other is the Education Secretary, who has seen his stock rise from +27 to +45 and gone from being close to the bottom of the table to comfortably in the middle.

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Andrew Gimson’s Commons sketch: A strange and ominous day in the Palace of the Westminster

What a strange, ominous day in the Palace of Westminster, desultory but tense, nobody quite clear what was going on, MPs swirling about the Chamber as they voted on Hilary Benn’s Bill, the Lords in the early stages of a determined filibuster, a great struggle unfolding between Leavers and Remainers, accusations of bad faith flying back and forth, the outcome uncertain.

Confusion was increased by the continued presence of the Tories who have had the whip withdrawn on the Tory benches. Had there really been an irreparable rift, or did Kenneth Clarke, Sir Nicholas Soames, Sir Oliver Letwin and the rest still belong to the Conservative Party?

Letwin spoke of “the horrors we’ve gone through for the last 18 months”, during which he and his colleagues had become “estranged from a party we love”.

Soames gave a short, valedictory speech, already published on ConHome, in which he observed that he had voted for the Withdrawal Agreement on every occasion it had been presented, “which is more than can be said for my Right Honourable Friend the Prime Minister, the Leader of the House, and other members of the Cabinet whose serial disloyalty has been such an inspiration to so many of us”.

As in a marriage which comes under strain, it was difficult to tell whether this was a severe but essentially transitory row which would blow over, or proof of an irrevocable breakdown. Soames still called Boris Johnson his friend, yet accused him of serial disloyalty.

Andrew Percy (Con, Brigg and Goole) accused the Remainers who were promoting the Benn Bill of trying, by repeated delays, to scupper the whole of Brexit.

He reported that his constituents have “figured it out”, and they object to Remainers who “get to tell people who voted Leave what they voted for”, and write them off as stupid, thick, racist Northerners.

In the evening, while the final vote on the Benn Bill was taking place and MPs could wander where in the Chamber they wished, Michael Gove crossed to the Labour side of the House, sat on the step directly beside the bench on which Benn was seated, and addressed him with great force and rapidity.

Benn listened with a frown of concentration, intervened from time to time, gave occasional emphatic nods, and then, as Gove made some parting remark, laughed uproariously. Watching from the press gallery, one could believe friendly co-operation was still possible.

But the prevailing mood was of uneasy flux and deep antagonism. The Benn Bill passed its Third Reading in the Commons by 327 to 299 votes, and Johnson rose to demand an early general election: “I don’t want an election, but the House has left no other option.”

Jeremy Corbyn proceeded to accuse Johnson of making no progress towards a Brexit deal: “Like the emperor’s new clothes there really is absolutely nothing there.”

Sir Patrick McLoughlin (Con, Derbyshire Dales) rose and demanded: “Does the Leader of the Opposition want a general election? A Yes or No will suffice.”

Corbyn declined to provide a Yes or No, but lobbed another accusation at Johnson: “What he’s offering is the poison of a no deal.”

Kenneth Clarke delivered the heaviest attack on a Conservative Prime Minister from his own side since Sir Geoffrey Howe’s denunciation of Margaret Thatcher in November 1990, which paved the way for her downfall.

But Howe had once been the Prime Minister’s close and loyal colleague, and few people had expected him to be so ferocious in his resignation speech.

Clarke, though a big beast, speaks for a smaller fraction of the party, and few people supposed he would pull his punches. He paid tribute to Johnson’s “tremendous skill in keeping a straight face while he’s being disingenuous”, remarked that the PM is “now desperate to have a general election”, and told him to “stop treating all this as a game”.

Nobody plays to win with greater ardour than Johnson, but he does now need a general election, and has not yet got one.

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WATCH: Gove – No Deal Brexit “Yellowhammer” document covers “absolutely the worst case”

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