Der Kabinettratsführer, ‘Ritter’ Mark ‘von’ Sedwill has finally departed! His reign as Cabinet Secretary will always be remembered for the thousands, possibly tens of thousands, of unnecessary deaths caused by the refusal of the Cabinet Office-controlled NHS to treat Covid-19 patients.
He was also the first Cabinet Secretary in recent times to nearly lose a Prime Minister. Although as an act of mercy he was not executed, unlike his brutal predecessor Jeremy Heywood (the man who wanted to blow up the Queen), some might think that he could have not have been heard to complain had he been terminated with extreme prejudice rather than just plain old prejudice.
His successor, Simon Case, is sound and from all accounts a nice chap. Encouragingly, one of his predecessors, Gus O’Donnell (modestly known as ‘GOD’ in Whitehall), was lukewarm about him on the BBC’s Today program. Cabinet Office procedure for appointing a successor to the Cabinet Secretary is modeled on the Nazi Party’s, save that the outgoing chap doesn’t normally marry Eva Braun in a bunker and fake his suicide.
This time appears to be different, however. The idea of appointing Simon Case didn’t come from his predecessor. His name was first circulated to me some weeks ago, and the email definitely didn’t come from the Cabinet Office, who stopped consulting me years ago! (They didn’t consult me very often.) This could be the most important innovation since Sir John Harington (1561-1612) invented the flush toilet.
The way is now clear for a safe Coronavirus vaccine and the revitalization of the British economy. In a remarkable intervention this week, Dr Thérèse Coffey, Minister for Work and Pensions, pointed out that the way for the Chancellor to increase the tax take would be to cut taxes, not raise them. For a Cabinet Minister, with respect, this showed an extraordinarily sophisticated understanding of economics.
The nice Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, is still in office, despite the best efforts of the Cabinet Office and OFQUAL to remove him. The time has now come to abolish OFQUAL, and a lot other quangos besides. If the Chancellor wants to cut public expenditure, that’s where he should be looking. He should be able to save at least £100 billion a year.
Tony Abbott, the nice former Aussie PM, has been appointed to the new Board of Trade. It’s purely an advisory role, but the appointment has led to an outpouring of hysteria from LibDems, Scotch Nats, Greens, global warming enthusiasts and other assorted nutters, including my old Bar School classmate Emily Thornberry, no offense intended.
They are exercised by his opposition to gay marriage, lack of belief in global warming, dislike of abortion and the fact that he’s not a feminist. So far as gay marriage is concerned that boat has sailed and his opposition, to which he was entitled, is of historic significance only. Given his enthusiasm for Speedos (a.k.a. ‘budgie-smugglers’), an item of beachwear that has achieved cult status in the gay community, I’m sure that he’ll be forgiven.
I’m gay and was initially lukewarm about gay marriage, although I strongly supported the idea of civil partnerships. However, it seems to be working and in any event, there’s no going back.
Talk of ‘belief’ in global warming by Thornberry and others betrays the unscientific nature of the idea that the anthropogenic output of CO2 is somehow warming the planet. It’s not an evidence-based argument, just a wacky political theory dreamt up by German intelligence to justify de-industrializing the West. De-industrialization of course has strategic significance. That’s why Jerry’s so keen on pushing it.
Tony Abbott’s opposition to abortion just goes to show that he’s a warm human being with strong ethical principles. Killing babies is wrong, period, as you chaps say. A woman’s body is her own until she gets pregnant when it becomes home to the little one growing inside her.
Pregnancy is not all illness, indeed it’s a sign of health, although ill-health can follow. It’s part of the human condition. It can be a tough time, and some women, tragically, will die giving birth, but it’s how new life comes about. Pregnancy should always be optional and should never be forced on a woman, but once a woman has voluntarily accepted pregnancy another life is at stake. There should be no going back unless the mother’s life is in deadly peril. Men and women are equal, but we’re not the same.
I am quite sure that Tony Abbott understands that the corollary of not allowing abortion unless the mother’s life is at risk has economic implications. A pregnant woman both need and deserve support. As the counsel who started the great test case of Webb v. EMO Air Cargo (UK) Ltd, which established that dismissal for pregnancy is unlawful sex discrimination, I think I’ve grasped the point too.
Whilst it may sound obvious, by the way, since only women can get pregnant, the idea that dismissal for pregnancy amounted to sex discrimination was controversial at the time I first argued it in court, in January 1988. Even the Equal Opportunities Commission refused to support Carole Webb (!). Obsessed with the idea that pregnancy is an illness British judges embarked on a fruitless quest for the ‘hypothetical pregnant man’.
Hopefully, Tony Abbott’s appointment is a pointer towards a change in government thinking about both climate change and abortion. The idea that he can’t be appointed to a government post because he’s not a feminist is just silly. It is possible to be a government adviser without being a feminist.
I don’t actually agree with Tony Abbott’s reported remarks about women being less suited to leadership roles. My old friend Margaret Thatcher was our greatest post-war Prime Minister and was far more able than any of the men in her Cabinet, with the possible exception of that nice man Norman Tebbit. England’s greatest monarch was Queen Elizabeth 1, who saw off Samuel Spaniard in great style.
Mind you if women politicians like Emily Thornberry keep banging on about global warming as though it were happening (it isn’t) and we could fix it if it were (we couldn’t, since the biggest influence on our climate is the Sun and we can’t alter its output) they may end up making Tony Abbott’s point for him. For Emily’s benefit, with respect, the Sun is that big yellow thing in the sky. And I haven’t even mentioned Hillary Clinton (the wretched woman or WW for short)!
Tony Abbott’s appointment is also a sign that Number 10 is resigned to a collapse in the Anglo-European negotiations for a post-Brexit treaty. Since these negotiations are the most pointless since Munich it’s no surprise that they’ve run into difficulties.
The basic problem is that the British government believes in free trade and has convinced itself that free trade with the EU is a good thing for Britain. (It’s undoubtedly good for Germany but the last time that something that was good for Germany was also good for Britain was probably our community partner the Kaiser’s State Visit to Britain in 1907.) The EU has never been about free trade.
Right from the beginning, it has been about control, in other words reversing the result of World War II and making the European states, together with Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland, German clients. (Neither Britain nor Ireland is in Europe of course, indeed as I pointed out to an Irish Ambassador some years ago, they’re further away from Europe than we are!) British and European interests simply don’t coincide. We’re the Good Guys and they’re the Bad Guys.
This is not to say that Europeans are bad people. Most of them aren’t, nor is there any point in saying that Europe is a nice place. Of course, it is. I know – I’ve been there. The problem with Europe is that it’s run by bad people and has been since the time of Charlemagne.
A book about great European leaders would be as thin as a book about great Jewish sporting heroes, great British cooks, and great German humorists. The Europeans do great art, wonderful music, superb architecture if you don’t count Albert Speer that is, excellent wine and some nice cheese. If you’re planning a genocide there would be no point in doing it without consulting a European, but why would you want to commit mass murder in the first place? Europe simply doesn’t do great leadership.
Navalny and novichok
Now that Jerry is saying that Alexei Navalny has poisoned with novichok the idea that his attempted assassination was ordered by that nice man President Putin has gone from being highly unlikely to completely silly. If the Russians had done it the last thing they would have used would have been a Russian nerve agent.
I still have no problem with the idea that he was poisoned. The German accusation against the Russians is a joke, however. I have a huge problem with the agent being novichok. Novichok is fatal. There’s no known antidote as such, although there are generic treatments such as Atropine, which might help if administered quickly, by which I mean at the same time as the novichok. There’s no such thing as an LD50 dose with novichok.
When was this novichok supposed to have been administered? Navalny supposedly took ill on a flight to Moscow, which diverted to Omsk. How do you administer novichok on a plane? I know inflight service on internal Russian flights isn’t that great, although I bet it’s better than Easyjet, even on Easyjet, you wouldn’t reckon on being served a novichok sandwich. Ryanair maybe (sorry, Michael!), but not Easyjet. The Germans may be selling, but I’m not buying.
For those doubting Thomases who think that I’ve never traveled on the Durango & Silverton Railroad, or been on an AMTRAK long-distance express, here are some piccies:
This week’s movie review: Greyhound (2020, dir. Aaron Schneider)
Greyhound was supposed to be released to theaters by Sony Pictures but they did a CNN and got into an unnecessary panic over Covid, selling it to Apple for digital release. This is a shame, because big stories deserve big screens, as the cinema industry are saying.
They happen to be right because Greyhound would look superb on a big screen. It looked pretty good on a friend’s TV! (I don’t do Apple.)
Starring Tom Hanks, who turns in a typically fine performance as Convoy Escort Commander Ernest Krause, it’s based on the great C. S Forester’s novel The Good Shepherd. The fictional convoy in question is HX-25 and the movie is based in early 1942, shortly after America’s entry into the war, although the tactics are more suggestive of early 1943.
This is a great war movie. C. S. knew his stuff, but the producers have also done their homework. Greyhound is the destroyer’s call-sign, by the way, not the name of the ship (USS Keeling). Understandably the script-writers opted for fictional ship names. My only quarrel with the choice of ship-name is the use of James for a British Tribal class destroyer. Tribal class destroyers had names like Zulu, Eskimo and Mohawk.
Great efforts are made to portray a Fletcher-class destroyer and Flower-class corvette accurately. I’m not sure that U-Boat commanders of the day would have been so willing to fight on the surface in the presence of escorts, but the action scenes are undeniably well done.
It’s fairly short (just over 90 minutes), so you don’t get a lot of character development, but you do get dead Germans, which more than makes up for it. The movie also makes the point about the dangers of the Mid-Atlantic Gap – the gap in air cover.
What the movie doesn’t address is the reason why such a gap was left in the first place. The long-range Consolidated Liberator first flew as early as December 29th 1939. The same company’s fine PBY Catalina and Short’s magnificent Sunderland could have been made available in larger numbers by the end of 1941. Airfields were available in Iceland, Bermuda, Greenland, and the Azores.
The problem was that the Abwehr had the Cabinet Office and Roosevelt Administration deeply penetrated. U-Boats were able to operate from bases on the west coast of Germany’s client state, Eire, and agents such as Harold Wilson and Edward Heath in Britain and Jean Monnet in the States kept up a constant flow of shipping intelligence. The U-Boats knew when the convoys were coming.
However Greyhound is an action movie, not an intelligence movie, and if it told the truth it would never have been made. Some truths are simply too hard for Hollywood to handle.
Michael Shrimpton was a barrister from his call to the Bar in London in 1983 until being disbarred in 2019 over a fraudulently obtained conviction. He is a specialist in National Security and Constitutional Law, Strategic Intelligence and Counter-terrorism. He is a former Adjunct Professor of Intelligence Studies at the American Military University.