Weekly Column

Party-gate and propaganda

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For the first time in years, I could not bring myself to attend Prime Minister’s Question Time. The braying and shouting from both sides is wearisome, the determination to catch each other out, what ought to be elevated and elegant discussions about great matters of state reduced to playground name-calling. I think the whole institution of PMQs needs reforming, as it risks bringing our great parliament into disrepute. (Having said that, it is perfectly true that Parliaments round the world envy this unique opportunity of getting the Boss in front of us for half an hour a week with a free rein on what we ask him. Perhaps we should just tone it down a bit).Not only that, but I am increasingly finding ‘Party-gate’ a tiresome waste of time and energy. (Whitehall and Westminster are paralysed by it.) Sue Gray has now reported; or at least sort of. I find it hard to imagine how the intervention of the Metropolitan Police who are answerable to Parliament has been allowed to delay/divert an inquiry commissioned by Parliament into these tawdry events. But apparently we must now wait for their investigations to be completed before we can truly know what happened in No 10 Downing Street. The full report must then be published (500 pages and 300 photographs), together with any penalty which the Police may impose. These are matters of key public concern.Until that happens, I do not intend to comment on it any further. Nor will I discuss my views of the Leadership, nor any of the various plots and sub-plots, letters to the 1922 Committee, slurs and accusations which may be swirling around. A running commentary on these matters cannot be helpful; and are at any event a diversion from the truly important things we should be focussing on.The lifting of the price cap on domestic energy prices together with the other price hikes we are seeing must be at the forefront of peoples’ minds, and I hope that the Government will take steps both to curb inflation and to help people with what we all hope will be a short-term spike in wholesale gas prices. Michael Gove’s Levelling Up document which was published yesterday is welcome indeed, and well deserving of extensive analysis. Good government demands that the more prosperous parts of a nation cross-subsidise the poorer parts. I was disappointed that he has not addressed the anomalies in the planning system which seem to be behind the vast number of new houses springing up around Wiltshire; and I do not support any move towards some kind of Regional Mayor. (We have quite enough layers of government and attendant bureaucracy already). But I strongly support the principles which lie behind the initiative.More important than all of that, a meeting with the Russian Ambassador to London yesterday left me feeling even more uneasy than ever about Ukraine. It was rather unnerving how- with an absolutely straight face- he advanced arguments about how NATO was ‘no longer a defensive alliance’ and somehow or another poses ‘a threat to Russia which can only be countered by military posture’. He denied any intention of invading Ukraine (he would do, wouldn’t he?); but he felt perfectly justified in having annexed Crimea, occupied the Donbas area and part of Georgia as well. There is something amusing about how these people can spout demonstrable propaganda lies without so much as a flicker of a smile.Honesty and straightforwardness must be the most basic and important foundations for any decent government.

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James Gray
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Published Date
February 3, 2023