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Fear and loathing in Downing Street
We live in extraordinary times. Over the last five days there has been announcement of the suspension of our parliamentary democracy, the brutal culling of a civil servant escorted out of Downing Street by an armed police officer, and a threatened purge against those Unbelievers in the ranks of the Conservative Party who do not share the views of the Johnson-Cummings axis.
The Economist's Bagehot column back at the beginning of August was one of the first to draw comparisons between current events and those that started to unfold in France 230 years ago. In an article titled: "Long live the Tory revolution! How the party of Burke became the party of Rousseau", it explained how the new Tory regime had discarded the party's historical philosophy that societal change should be anchored in custom and tradition, and replaced it with Rousseau's concept of the "general will" where the opinion of the majority should prevail irrespective of the views of the minorities.
As with Rousseau's philosophy, those that oppose the general will - in this case anyone who opposes a no deal Brexit - should be branded as enemies of the revolution and crushed.
For those of us on the democratic left, there is much we have learned from the philosophers of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution. Few would espouse Maximilien Robespierre's Reign of Terror as a template for leading us to the fair, free and egalitarian societies to which we inspire.
Yet in just a matter of days, the Johnson-Cummings Tory axis has fast-forwarded the events of the French Revolution. We are seeing rivals and former allies threatened with purges, the declaration of revolutionary government as the necessary evil in the war against the enemy, and the statement that constitutional government could only return once that enemy had been defeated.
Dominic Cummings is known to be a keen student of the works of military strategists like Clausewitz and Sun Tzu. He studied history at Oxford and I suspect he is also a student of the works, lives and influence of Rousseau and Robespierre.
As the levels of fear, loathing and paranoia reach heightened levels in Downing Street, with a former head of the civil service calling for an inquiry into the "reign of terror" and hundreds of thousands taking to the streets in defence of our democracy, Cummings might reflect that revolutionary government didn't turn out particularly well for Robespierre and his Jacobin friends.
How we halt this abuse of power
When our Prime Minister is responsible for undermining our democracy we have to work together to stop him. That is why I have joined the Judicial Review launched in the High Court by Gina Miller, supported by Sir John Major and Jo Swinson.
I will be represented by Mishcon de Reya, Tom Hickman and David Pannick QC. I intend to assist the Court from the perspective of an active legislator to ensure that there is sufficient time for members of all Parties to consider and vote on the Bill.
I have also taken advice on legislative solutions to challenge the Prime Ministers’ action to stop us crashing out of the EU without a deal. I am in discussions with colleagues in other parties and a Bill to achieve this outcome has been drafted.
The proroguing of Parliament is an unprecedented affront to democracy. The rights and freedoms of our citizens have been vandalised. This is an abuse of power that can and should be stopped. Time is short but the stakes could not be higher.
The lost principles and a (pro) rogues gallery
Amber Rudd: “The most extraordinary idea I’ve ever heard.” Sajid Javid: "You can't just shut down parliament." Matt Hancock: "The end of the Conservative Party as a serious party of government." Michael Gove: “It would not be true to the best traditions of British democracy.” Nicky Morgan: “Clearly a mad suggestion.”
All five now serve as cabinet ministers in Boris Johnson's - carrying out the anti-democratic onslaught on our constitution that they have so recently condemned. They should resign.
Dog gone days
To breach or not to breach
YouTube's preposterous "banned today, reinstated tomorrow" policy towards preachers of white supremacy would be farcical if it were not so disturbing. Yet chief exec Susan Wojcicki's new "commitment to openness" doesn't even go as far as offering an explanation of how YouTube managed to ban two hate speech preachers from its platform, and then reinstate them two days later. If YouTube's hate speech policy has NOT been breached, she has a clear duty to explain why. To do otherwise is an unacceptable state of affairs.
A gamble too far
The gambling regulator has warned elite football teams they risk prosecution unless they ditch a Russian sponsor. Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham football clubs risk prosecution and millions of pounds in fines if they continue to promote their global betting partner 1xBet, whose licence to operate in the UK has been withdrawn. Tottenham said this weekend they had ditched 1xBet, whose brand has been used to promote betting on children's sports, cockfighting and a "pornhub" casino with topless women. I assume the other clubs will get the message quickly.
Decency or dare
Along with parliamentary colleague Preet Gill, I met a great bunch of veterans from the Royal British Legion at an event organised by AgeUK's Sandwell and Birmingham branches. They are livid at having their free TV licences taken away.
In Sandwell 22,000 will lose their entitlement to the free TV licence, across the West Midlands the figure is almost 300,000, nationally 3.7 million will suffer because the Tories have walked back on their manifesto promise.
For me the big issue is that four in 10 pensioners say that their TV is their only contact with the outside world from week to week. AgeUK's brilliant campaign has garnered over 637,000 signatures and has rightly hit a significant nerve which is now playing out in community centres, homes and on doorsteps across the land.
If there's a General Election next month, there will be a Labour manifesto pledge to maintain this free TV licence for the over 75s. I dare any political leader to defy 3.7 million pensioners.
Licence to trill
Adele, Shirley Bassey and Tina Turner are just some of the famous names 'licenced' over the years to sing the James Bond theme. Who will perform the soundtrack to the latest movie No Time To Die has yet to be announced.Ed Sheeran has been widely tipped and this week his manager did nothing to dampen the rumours. In an interview with Music Week, Stuart Camp revealed that Sheeran asks him about it 'every day.' He adds that a few years ago he and the UK's biggest star did meet producer Barbara Broccoli who showed interest. 'We're still open to it, but they're not even having these conversations yet,' adds Camp. With Phoebe Waller-Bridge working on the script, the movie promises to be packed with great British talent.
Culture for kids
A lack of play areas and a lack of parking. These are top of the list of barriers for parents wanting to take their children to museums and theatres. The findings by heritage insurer Ecclesiastical reveal a quarter of parents say age appropriate displays would encourage more people to visit these places. The survey results show that cultural institutions need to do more to be family-friendly. Some though are already doing their best like Leeds City Museum. The venue provides baby-friendly curator tours as well as 'Dadtastic Days'. Its efforts have not gone unnoticed — the museum recently won the Family Friendly Museum Award from charity Kids in Museums.
Solidarity with Kashmir
Human rights are never just an internal matter. The abuses in Kashmir are a cause of concern for the whole world. We must speak out loudly and clearly when human rights are being violated as flagrantly as they currently are.
On Friday at the Free Kashmir March in Birmingham I sent a message of solidarity on behalf of the whole Labour movement to the people of Kashmir. I called on the UK government to work tirelessly to ensure United Nations resolutions are implemented in full.
The people of Kashmir deserve no less.
A friend has sent some pictures over of yesterday first-ever Bermuda Pride. Initial estimates were for a couple of hundred people to turn up. In spite of threats of gun violence, thousands of rainbow clad people took to the streets of Hamilton to support LGBT+ Bermudians. Happy days.
Thursday marked the 25th anniversary of the epoch-making Definitely Maybe album. In this period of division I still have hope. Thanks for the good times, Liam and Noel.