THE TRUMP BUST IN THE MID-TERMS
The pollsters, once again, were comically wrong. In the American mid-term elections, the Red Tsunami (Red for Republican) turned out to be a Red Ripple, failing to wash the Democrats from the House or Senate. The only Republican who created an actual wave was Florida governor Ron de Santis – he who took away Disney’s tax-free status as a punishment for involving itself in progressive politics. Criticised and attacked by Trump, he won a tidal 59% of the Florida vote.
Elsewhere, Trump-backed candidates got sloshed – one in Pennsylvania was beaten by a barely-coherent stroke victim. All this played out against a backdrop of a Democrat President and Vice-President who are in their separate ways cognitively deficient. It looks like voters want Trump without the excitement of Trump himself. There may be a lesson in here for Boris.
SEE IT. SAY IT. SORT OF.
In a flippant Freedom of Information request, Guido asked Transport for London how often they broadcast the single most annoying security message across their transport facilities. Amateur announcers have been given free rein to read it out in a variety of deliveries, to refresh the message in a way that maddens those of us with sensitive ears.
A TfL officer replied:
The information you have requested would be likely to endanger the physical health and safety of an individual or individuals.
While we make no suggestion that you would use this information for anything other than your own personal interest, disclosures made under the FOI Act are deemed to be a ‘disclosure to the world at large.
But about the endangering thing?
This information could potentially be obtained and utilised by individuals who may wish to use this information to cause disruption to our customers, staff and network.
Telling us that the message has been broadcast 859,000 times would endanger individuals and cause more disruption than strikes, absent crew, signal failures, Spanish working practices and corporate malaise?
The answer is a triumph. It will be rewarded at bonus time.
AVOIDING THE HUMILIATION OF A HUMBLE ADDRESS
It was suggested a couple of weeks ago that Labour might use an Opposition Day Motion in the Commons to propose a Humble Address calling for papers relating to Home Secretary Suella’s controversial politics.
The Government usually ignores Opposition Day debates, declining to vote in them. A Humble Address however, if passed by the Commons, is binding. This is fairly well known, even in the Tory Whips’ office.
Is that why the Labour Whips changed the name of the event from “Humble Address” to an “Order”? As deputy Speaker Nigel Evans pointed out, both are identical in effect, so why the shuffle?
They must have changed the name late in the day because Yvette Cooper, reading from her text referred to it twice as a “Humble Address” (and had the Hansard record corrected to eliminate those words).
Was it a covert jibe by the Labour Whips? Were they jeering that their myopic, bottom-dwelling opposite numbers are more interested in pastoral care than parliamentary whipping?
Their plot was foiled. Labour won their first Opposition Day Motion 218:0, but the Government won the significant Order Motion 300:208.
The sting, however, surely remains.
THE LOGIC OF CLIMATE REPARATIONS CUTS BOTH WAYS
COP attendees tell us that because Britain started the Industrial Revolution 250 years ago we are responsible for the floods, droughts and famines of the last year or two and are therefore liable for trillions in compensation payments.
Another great European innovation that underpinned the Industrial Revolution was double-entry bookkeeping (1494, well done Venice). This kept a record of credits and debits in one document, and made comprehensible the vast complexities of international trade and finance.
Applying this accounting system to the idea of reparations puts the developing world massively, unpayably in the debt of the West.
On our debit side the South will want to put in colonialism, looted national treasures and natural resources, various atrocities, massacres, some genocides – though probably not slavery, out of which they still do pretty well.
On our credit side, though, there’s a far longer and more transformative list. We might start with Habeas Corpus and property rights and go through to democracy, the common law, appellate courts, railway systems, gas lighting, electricity, washing machines, penicillin, fertilisers, combine harvesters, smaller families, love-marriages, longevity, decolonisation, an environmental movement, and the democratisation of wealth that allows middle-class people a higher standard of living than the kings of antiquity.
The lives of unprecedented billions, mostly in the South are owed to a civilisation that defied Malthus, Marx and old-time tribalism. We don’t ask for thanks, but nor are we liable for trillion-dollar reparations.
CENTRIST DAD’S CLIMATE SCEPTICISM
Never mind the absorption bands of carbon molecules, or the temperatures of the troposphere, or the Urban Heat Island Effect: If you get into a climate science argument you will never get out again.
But here’s a line of argument that we can all make use of.
It isn’t true that modern times are hotter than they’ve ever been. We’ve been here before.
Those who grew up in the 1960s will remember that winters were perishing. Milk froze in bottles on the doorstep and pushed the silver cap off. Ice formed on the inside of windows at night. Legs came in from the sports field red from chapping.
However, the generation before, the one that grew up in the 1920s and 30s – for them it was warmer. In the mid-west of America it was brutally hot. Dust bowls formed. In the Arctic, ice melted. Newspapers carried reports of a North West Passage opening up. Before that, there were hundreds of years stuck in a Little Ice Age when the Thames occasionally froze over. Prior to that, the Medieval Warm Period was as warm as today.
It was probably warmer in Roman times. There were vineyards in York, and settlements in Greenland (foundations and rubbish pits are emerging as the ice melts again).
How much of today’s warming is natural and how much man-made no one knows for sure. The climate enthusiasts used to say it was half and half – now they say it’s entirely man-made.
So, “the science” moves. But always in one direction – from crisis, to chaos, to catastrophe. These activist scientists aren’t what judges call reliable witnesses.
THE QUESTIONABLE CROWN
Series 5 of The Crown turns out to be quite the flop. It’s most notable for ponderous characterisation, lifeless narrative, and expositional dialogue (“What, you mean, the Princess Olga who was my late great-aunt’s niece and a constant defender of the Western Alliance? That Olga?”). Prince Andrew and Mohammed Al Fayed also seem to be the moral centre of the series which is unexpected but not very interesting.
The only real interest is in wondering what could be true and what has been made up. The mix of fact and fiction might have been more entertaining, but the ethics of it are pretty questionable.
In what way is this Crown script different from filming the rags-to-riches Netflix story but with David Hyman (chief legal officer) doing something libellous to Bela Bajaria (head of global) with actionable accusations against Maria Ferreras (head of partnerships) and prejudicial scenes of Dean Garfield (public policy) on top of Reed Hastings (founder)?
If a notice were put over the front credits, This Is Fiction, would there really be no legal recourse by these inordinately rich executives?
Deep in the Gormenghast of the Palace of Westminster there’s a parliamentary body called the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments.
Seven MPs and seven peers meet weekly “to assess the technical quality” of Statutory Instruments (the parliamentary instructions from ministers that pass unopposed through the House). Legislative elves read these regulations and critique them for error. When they find something wrong, they report it and write to departments with their requests for correction.
They say things like this:
Explain how an obligation to take “such measures as are appropriate and proportionate” (regulation 3) amounts to “specified measures or measures of a specified description” in accordance with section 105B of the Communications Act 2003 (as opposed to specifying the purpose of those measures).
Observing, critiquing, pointing out ambiguities or uncertainties in secondary legislation. Guido is in awe. These people are the sketch writers of drafting clerks. But what a life!