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The Father of Lies and his children

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‘THE MOTHER OF PARLIAMENTS’, it was rather breathlessly argued in the Supreme Court on Wednesday, ‘is being shut down by the Father of Lies’.

Boris Johnson may argue in his defence that lies were almost certainly knocking about the place for some time before either he or the Vote Leave campaign showed up, and that however lax his control either of his language or his zip, he couldn’t possibly be the progenitor of them all.

Diversions like Aidan O’Neill’s florid advocacy on behalf of the Scottish Government aside, three days of legal argument in the Supreme Court have told us little that we didn’t already know about Boris Johnson’s motivation in closing the House of Commons for business until 14th October. Not least because Boris –possibly anxious that doing so might involve siring one or two more gorgeous, bouncing little lies– declined to provide any evidence to the Court.

With or without Boris’s possibly unreliable evidence on the point, inferring the Prime Minister’s motives for the prorogation from his prior and subsequent conduct shouldn’t be much of a challenge to their Lordships. What the Justices will find harder is deciding what to do with this information.

There is scope for the Supreme Court to take an easy way out in its ruling; to steer between the Scylla and Charybdis contradictory decisions of the English and Scottish Courts.

The exercise of the power of prorogation, they may conclude, is one which can be subject to judicial review, but not in this case; dissembling or deception would have to be truly egregious before a court is entitled to step in and say it undermines the whole basis for exercising a prerogative power.

A prorogation is a tool granted to the executive, and like any such tool, it would be extraordinary if the executive didn’t consider questions of political advantage in its exercise. Politicians are not and never have been expected to spell out to the public the basis on which they intend to outmanoeuvre, bluff or trap their opponents. Furthermore, would it be an unlawful exercise of the Royal Prerogative to close down business in a Parliament that in any event had no useful business to do?

If Boris Johnson has been disingenuous in his stated reasons for sending MPs back to their constituencies to prepare for Brexit, his Parliamentary opponents have been just as disingenuous in their attempts to thwart him from carrying out Government policy. Incapable of the agreement as to the correct approach; having collectively chickened out of offering a second referendum, the opposition is clearing the decks for an election. It has fallen back on a strategy of tricks and mischief, intending to inflict the maximum political damage on Boris before it the election is held.

Parliament has repeatedly ducked the question of whether or not Brexit itself still commands public consent, but has now legislated three times to stop ‘no deal’. The first go was April’s Cooper-Letwin legislation, successfully compelling Theresa May to seek an Article 50 extension she would have willingly sought anyway.

In August, Parliament inserted a tricks-and-mischief requirement for the Government to report at fortnightly intervals on progress in re-establishing the Northern Ireland executive; the intention is to make it impossible to prorogue Parliament. The Government found a way around that trick, though nobody now quite remembers how.

Undeterred, Parliament has enacted trick three; a riff on Cooper-Letwin to the effect that, if no deal is in place by 19th October, Boris must abase himself before the Euro-panjandrums and humbly request a further extension to Brexit.

This is only a particularly cunning plan if an extension is likely to be forthcoming. As things stand, it’s very hard to see what possible appeal it holds for the EU 27, who are utterly exasperated with the chaos across the channel. Another extension that decides nothing will be refused.

It probably won’t be Boris who asks for the futile extension either. Resigning –and inviting Corbyn to be the patsy who prostrates himself before Michel Barnier– would be the more obvious course. It would deflect onto Labour the damage Labour intends for him, and leave the party reeking with unpopularity amongst its core voters in the run up to an election.

When the possibility of prorogation was first mooted, Conservative leadership contender Rory Stewart advanced the bold/ eccentric idea that Parliament would simply reconvene itself somewhere else and carry on regardless. Even if Rory doesn’t immediately get on the blower to the conference and banqueting manager at Methodist Central Hall, the Remain majority needs some way of effectively deciding its strategy before it reconvenes on 14th October, or (with luck) sooner.

If Parliament is reposing all its confidence in getting another extension with nothing to show for it, MPs should be revising that plan with some urgency. The current strategy has not removed the possibility of any deal exit. Thinking otherwise is foolish complacency.
With the departure from the Tory whip of 21 pro-European Conservatives, the Parliamentary balance on Brexit may finally have shifted. The last General Election produced no clear answer to Brexit and no party at present has a commanding lead in the polls. The only sure way to persuade the EU 27 to agree to a further extension is to legislate, quickly, for a second referendum, unless MPs want to add to Boris’s prolific record of paternity and hand a big cigar to the proud Father of Brexit.

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No mercy for Nasty Neil

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‘Nasty Neil’ McEvoy is in the soup again.

Regular readers of this column will be familiar with Nasty Neil, the now-independent South Wales AM (after Plaid Cymru disembarrassed themselves of his affiliation), Cardiff City councillor, and general thorn in the side of the Cardiff Bay establishment.

Styling himself –minus the racist aggro– as a sort of Welsh Nat Tommy Robinson, Nasty Neil follows the whiff of controversy like some ASBO version of the Bisto kids. McEvoy is an obstreperous, uppity, bad-to-the-bone populist who seems well-liked amongst his constituents. This doesn’t go down at all well in the cosy, consensual atmosphere of the Senedd, where any sort of opposition to Welsh Labour is regarded as being in faintly poor taste.

Predictably, Welsh Government apparatchiks have got it in for Nasty Neil. This follows his spectacular decapitation of the Assembly’s Standards Commissioner, Sir Roderick Evans, who had to resign his post when McEvoy managed to get a recording of what sounded like the Commissioner and most of his staff going around the office saying that McEvoy (whom they were in the process of investigating) was a d**khead.

Now, Karma has smiled on Cardiff Bay and the politburo have extracted a measure of revenge. Following a four-day hearing before Cardiff Council’s Standards Committee, McEvoy was found to have breached Cardiff City Council’s code of conduct by bringing the council into disrepute and failing to treat a complainant with ‘respect and consideration’. He was suspended as a councillor for four months.

The complaint against Neil McEvoy arose in April and May last year, when a child at a privately-run care home used by the council told his parents he was repeatedly being assaulted. The parents told McEvoy and asked him to do something about it.

Nasty Neil, slightly stretching the received understanding of what it is to be a ‘corporate parent’, demanded access to the child, confronted staff at the home, and (in earshot of the staff) called the director of social services and the police to organise a welfare check when he was refused access.

At the Standards Committee hearing, the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales (who sees himself as a sort of Batman to McEvoy’s Joker), accused Nasty Neil of acting in a threatening way towards staff with his “chest puffed out”, “shoulders back” and “pointing his fingers”.

“Show me on the doll,” Counsel for Ombuds-Man may have asked, “where Nasty Neil pointed at you.”

She then accused McEvoy of displaying “a pattern of behaviour, that as soon as something doesn’t go your way, you [ask] to speak to the director.” “Can you see, Councillor,” she added, “that it is the way you do it that makes people feel intimidated?”

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How Labour won the argument

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By Matthew Paul

Even though Labour –according to Jeremy Corbyn– ‘won the argument’ last Thursday, the Tories comprehensively won at the traditionally more important business of getting votes. Simon Hart, Stephen Crabb and Jonathan Edwards all held their seats; the two Conservatives enjoying comfortable majorities over Labour (though it was Hart, not Crabb, who took Alun Cairns’ vacant job as Secretary of State for Wales).

Plaid Cymru, as predicted, had a pretty rotten night. They can take a little comfort from Ben Lake’s solid win in Ceredigion, and from seeing their majorities creep up in Y Fro Gymraeg. But the Party of Wales remains a party supported by only one in ten Welsh voters. Plaid made no progress at all outside its core areas; indeed its share of the vote has (with a very slight blip in 2015) been slowly on the slide for twenty years, from the 14.1% it won in the 2001 General Election, to 9.9% last Thursday. This is not a movement on the march.

Plaid’s aggressively anti-Brexit stance, and its ‘Unite to Remain’ alliance with wishy-washy Britnat parties was a huge strategic error. Mistletoe-clad traditionalists in Y Fro know perfectly well that the party is pro-EU and didn’t need reminding. Brexity boyos in the valleys looking for an alternative to Labour found it a massive turn-off.

In Carmarthenshire West and South Pembrokeshire, Plaid’s vote share fell; Rhys Thomas having failed to mention frequently enough that he’s a doctor and was in Afghanistan. Jonathan Edwards will be spooked too. He lost half his majority in Carmarthen East & Dinefwr, and the Conservatives smashed Labour into third place. With a bit of investment in the constituency from CCHQ, there is every prospect of the Tories biting Jonathan on the bum next time round.

While the doorstep in the Pembrokeshire constituencies had been showing solid support for the Tories but no reason for complacency, over in Carmarthenshire it was apparent that the Labour campaign had completely gone to bits. Labour Candidate Maria Carroll, though an avid Corbynite, was for some reason unpersoned by her party and ordered to stay away from Jezza’s big gig at Nantyci showground. The dear leader didn’t mention her or CE&D once in his speech.

Rattled, Carroll put out a video in which she adopted the conciliatory tone of a dying gypsy fortune-teller cursing the drunk driver who knocked her down: “your children and grandchildren will SUFFER!” Even this inspirational message failed to turn things around. Maria Carroll may have won the argument in Carmarthen East & Dinefwr; but only if the argument centred on whether or not she would lose to both Plaid and the Tories, and get the lowest vote in Carmarthenshire in the Labour Party’s entire history. To her credit, she achieved both. She was fortunate not to face a credible challenge from the LibDems, or Count Binface.

In receipt of this absolute shellacking from the electorate, many candidates would step back, slightly abashed, and opt for a moment of quiet reflection. Not Maria. Erupting on Twitter, she blamed every factor for her defeat except unpropitious astrological convergences, her own incompetence, and Oh! Jeremy Corbyn. Broadly speaking, she shared the view prevalent amongst members of the Corbyn cult; that the electorate got it wrong.

Certainly, the analysis among Corbynites seems to be that it wasn’t the manifesto that got it wrong; voters loved the classical socialist idea of taxing the rich until there aren’t any left, then starting on the moderately well off. It definitely wasn’t the leader either; he is a good, kind, honest, decent man who really cares for the poor. And, as we all know, there aren’t any poor Jews. No, it was vile, billionaire-owned mainstream media like The New Statesman, The Guardian and The Pembrokeshire Herald that brainwashed a majority of the electorate into thinking Corbyn was an unpatriotic halfwit who surrounded himself with commies, bomb-scatterers and anti-Semites. What made it worse was that they achieved this by the sneaky, underhand trick of reporting things that Corbyn had said and done.

Carroll tweeted that she wants to see “an end to the abusive power of the media”, and even expressed an aspiration to close the media down, so perhaps The Pembrokeshire Herald has had a lucky break.

Maria Carroll wasn’t alone on Thursday night. The Beast of Bolsover, Dennis Skinner, was finally told that his forty-year long end of the pier show was being shut down. Labour were turfed out of Sedgefield; once Tony Blair’s rock-solid stronghold. Redcar, Grimsby Fishdocks, Satanic Mills East, and a host of other seats which have been Labour since the dawn of time all voted with some enthusiasm for Boris and Brexit.

The strategy of forcing opposition parties to treat a first-past-the-post election as a referendum on a subject about which they didn’t agree worked an absolute treat for the Tories. Even so, a competently led Labour Party with a clearly defined position on Brexit could have won. In one credible poll, 43% of Labour voters who switched sides said it was leadership, not Brexit, that was their main concern.

For the time being, Corbyn remains at the helm of his stricken party, anxious to ensure that whoever succeeds him is chosen on his terms and from his cult. Any Tory with £3 in his pocket would do well to sign up to Labour now, for the unmissable opportunity of helping to elect Richard Burgon or Rebecca Long-Bailey as the Lenin-capped loon’s successor.

Entertaining as it may be to watch the Labour Party disintegrate, the Tories can allow themselves only a short gloat. Reality will start to bite soon, when they get stuck into what may not be the entirely effortless task of Getting Brexit Done.

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Cadno’s Carmarthenshire Election Special – Part 1

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Hello, readers.

It’s been a while since you’ve heard from this old fox.

What with things being the way they are, Cadno might have been silenced for good. But this is election time. It’s the season to be jolly with holly and —- golly gosh! What larks the election is!

Let’s start with Carmarthenshire East and Dinefwr.

Jonathan Edwards is the incumbent and Plaid’s treasury spokesperson is likely to take some beating. He has had substantial media exposure for his virtually lone hand pummelling the various Conservative Brexit ministers and pushing the interests of his constituents, whether on miners’ pensions; WASPI; or rural regeneration. Jonathan Edwards has also had the Liberal Democrats and Greens step aside to give him a clear run as an unequivocally ‘remain’ supporting candidate. That is a largely symbolic step, given both parties’ performance last time out.

If God loves a trier, he must have a special place in his heart for the Conservatives’ Havard Hughes. If ever a candidate’s social media profile suggested that he was a wing nut short of a complete cuckoo clock, Havard’s is the one. It’s a tough sell for Havard Hughes. The policies that the Conservatives have delivered for the constituency in the past decade can be counted on the fingers of one thumb.

Last time saw a revival in the Labour vote as David Darkin, who moved from his home in Llanelli to former county councillor Anthony Jones’ spare room to get local credibility, rode the coattails of a successful Labour national campaign. This time, the red rose has put forward Maria Carroll as their candidate. Maria Carroll, Cadno is happy to clarify following recent media reports, is not an anti-Semite. She simply is unlucky enough to know one hell of a lot of them online and welcome them when they joined the Facebook group she administered which advised Party members accused of anti-Semitism. Some of those concerned turned out to be anti-Semites. It’s just bad luck.

The Brexit Party Limited’s candidate is Pete Prosser. What we do know about Pete Prosser is that he paid a fee to be selected as the BPL’s candidate. If his experience is like that of the 317 Limited Company candidates dropped in the cack by Nigel Farage when he pulled the plug on them, he must have deep pockets. 14 people like his Facebook page as the company’s candidate. Cadno thinks it’s best to leave it there.

While the Brexit Party Limited’s General Election website (you have to see it believe it) claims it can win in Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, Cadno thinks it safe to say such an outcome is highly unlikely. In spite of improving their parties votes in 2017, both Havard Hughes and David Darkin were well adrift of Jonathan Edwards at that election.

By definition, all Plaid Cymru seats are marginal; however, Jonathan Edwards’ is less marginal than others. It depends on whether enough leave voters are brassed off with Labour’s interesting Brexit proposals (renegotiate a deal and then – potentially – campaign against it) to take one look at Havard Hughes and think ‘as swivel-eyed loons go, we could do worse’. Or whether enough Conservatives think Maria Carroll MP is a price worth paying to get rid of one of their party’s most significant parliamentary goads.

It should be fun finding out.

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