Today, UKIP gave up any pretence of being a serious party

Nigel FarageTo be a serious political party in the UK you have to have MPs at Westminster.

To get MPs at Westminster there are two main routes, which can be followed in concert:

1. Win a seat or seats at a general election, as per the Greens in Brighton, normally based on a strong local base on the council.

2. Win a parliamentary by-election and then build on that.

Method 1 is usually a darned sight harder than 2, but can be much easier.

The forthcoming Newark by-election presented UKIP with the only chance they’ll ever seriously get to go down route 2. Maybe they have a strong local candidate on the blocks ready to go who will win it. I doubt it. If they had thrown everything behind Nigel Farage, they would have probably won it.

But they are not going to do that.

That is because they are not interested in being a serious political party.

They want to make the single point that we should bring up the drawbridges at Dover. Fine. So they go down the MEP route but don’t actually back laws which will benefit the UK in Brussels/Strasbourg. But they’ll never bring us out of the EU because that decision is made at Westminster. As will be any decision about a referendum, which they won’t be in on, because they won’t be at our national parliament.

Strange that. They say the EU is useless, but pile up Parliamentarians there rather than at the place they say should have all the power, Westminster. Bizarre.

Update 1st May: Martin Kettle in the Guardian has said, more or less, the same thing, but a lot more eloquently.

UKIP broken Caps Lock key rebuttal unit goes into full panic stations mode

imageMark Pack brilliantly quipped that “UKIP’s media rebuttal style appears to be ‘act like someone who comments on the Telegraph website and has a broken Caps Lock key'”.

There is more evidence of this today.

Man without substance blog spotted that the actor used in the UKIP poster railing against people from other EU countries coming over here and taking all our jobs is Dave O’Rourke, who is an Irish migrant. A very fine actor by the look of it, as well.

So, of course, UKIP get out their keyboard fixed in upper case mode and fire off this rant-rebuttal, reported by the Evening Standard:

But the Ukip spokesman called the Tories “wilful idiots” and pointed out that when William Hague led the party, actors were used in a poster on the number of nurses and teachers in Britain. “This is utterly standard practice in political advertising,” he added.

That’s right. Attack the people who didn’t spot the obvious flaw, and respond to a criticism that is beside the point. But do it in full red-faced wide-mouth-open Farage rant-style. We won’t notice. We’re all thick anyway.

Jamaica Inn – the BBC at its best

imageThe BBC’s adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn has been exceptionally good. The acting is superb. The atmospherics of the photography and music are exquisite. They have done justice to the hardest-edged element of the du Maurier oevre.

800ish people complained about the sound on the first episode’s broadcast. “Mumbling” was mentioned. In fact, all the actors’ diction is extremely clear. There is one exception. Sean Harris as Joss Merlyn is rather throaty. In fact, he is a great actor and his performance in this is exceedingly fine. You don’t have to understand every word he says. His interpretation is quite impressionistic. I prefer that to a somewhat cod Cornish accent, like some actors in some TV series based in our fine extreme south-western county.

All in all, I say:

Well done, BBC!

Photo above of Rough Tor by -SammyJo-

A Christian country?

Christ Church cathedral, Oxford - Some rights reserved by Paul StevensonI did cringe when David Cameron started talking about the UK being a Christian country. I tend to agree with the assorted people in today’s Telegraph who disagree with him.

8 million people go to church once a month in this country. But 33 million people describe themselves as Christian. So what are the 25 million people in the gap between those two numbers doing to justify their self-description as Christian? Lots of bible reading and praying, I hope.

Email to The Times re: Jeremy Browne

I have just sent this email to

Dear The Times

In your printed edition of April 12 2014, the main front page headline was ” Lib Dems ‘are pointless’ ”

At no stage in the report underneath and on page 2 col 3, or in the extended interview on pages 32 and 33, was Jeremy Browne quoted as saying the words that the Lib Dems “are pointless”.

Jeremy Browne has tweeted to the effect that he did not say the words “are pointless”.

It is reasonable for Times readers to expect that, when you put words within quotation marks, you have evidence that the person concerned did indeed utter those words.

Could you please issue a clarification to state that Jeremy Browne did not say “are pointless”?

Thank you

Two buying tips for Easter

Spitfire Kentish AleI haven’t done this before, but here goes. The mood has taken me here.

Sainsburys have a great deal on for Shepherd Neame’s Spitfire ale at £1 a bottle. Worth taking advantage of.

I should declare an interest for the next one, as I am related to an employee of said firm.

Hotel Chocolat have surpassed themselves with their Easter choccy designs ths year, if you really want to spoil some special people or yourself. Their “Splat” chocolate eggs really are an inspired work of art.

The riddle of Jeremy Browne

FCO Minister Jeremy Browne visits Olympics siteI first became aware of Jeremy Browne when he looked after the media relations for the party in the 1990s. I don’t know how it happened, but for some reason I found myself in the party’s press relations control room on the Saturday afternoon of a conference. I noticed Jeremy Browne because he was loudly demonstrating his great concern about…..wait for it….finding the remote control for the TV so that he could hear the commentary for the rugby.

I remember thinking at the time how admirable this was. Someone deep in the political world but with a sense of perspective.

I won’t be buying his book, but I have today invested in a copy of The Times to read his interview, and I have read Nick Thornsby’s excellent review of the book (he read it so we don’t have to).

By enlarge, I find Browne’s views very attractive and energising. His internationalism and progressive view of immigration are admirable. He is a very good liberal or Liberal thinker.

Should we be upset about the timing of all this? The book is published by “Biteback”. How appropriate. I am sure it must have been very “disorientating” (Browne’s word) to be sacked as a minister. It was not “out of the blue”, as The Times describe it. At the autumn conference, there were many in the party seething about his remarks about girls and veils. There were many saying he should be sacked. The remarks came after he had, to describe it charitably, bad luck at the Home Office. Go home vans. The David Miranda detention. Both happened on his watch. All this made him look accident-prone. It made him look as though he had fallen foul of Stockholm syndrome and got too friendly with his captors, the Conservatives. He was sacked, reasonably predictably. Now he’s biting back.

With a furiously active brain, it seems natural that Browne should write a book. And once you sign up for Mr Iain Dale, MD of Biteback, you have more or less given up your soul to the devil for six months. Dale is a fantastically skilful publisher (crazy skirmishes with protesters notwithstanding). He chooses the best timing for selling books, which is usually the worst timing for the party of the author.

So the riddle of Jeremy Browne is indeed the riddle of all liberals or Liberals. One definition of a liberal is “a pain in the arse”. So yes, Browne is being very liberal, at the moment, under that definition. But the shame is that all the furore and The Times “pointless” headline is detracting, shamefully in my mind, from an earnest liberal person with a first class political mind.

I’m off to deliver Focii.

Boris: London is the U-bend of the Golden Triangle

Boris2_May11_Stephen_LockBoris Johnson was on Today this morning. His interview can be heard here:

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It was a grippingly bizarre interview. Boris is entertaining in an unnerving way. He does not do “neat and tidy”. At any moment a car crash could occur. Anyone who thinks he could be Prime Minister must be mad. If an interviewer asked him to describe an apple, he’d still be waffling and huffing and puffing away five minutes later throwing in Latin mottos and words most people have to look up.

Today’s interview was about life sciences and its “Golden Triangle” of London, Cambridge and Oxford, which is meant to be like Boston MA, except you don’t have to drive for hours behind a tractor (i.e between Oxford and Cambridge) to get around Boston.

London is the U-bend of the Golden Triangle

– announced the Mayor of London with great aplomb, no apparent irony, and after serious thought, it seemed.

The U-bend.

Like a toilet.

In a triangle.


I see.

After questioning from John Humphrys, Boris changed allegories. After momentarily describing London as “the armpit”, he said London was the “crook of the elbow of the Golden Triangle”.

Later on, Humprhys offered that the Golden Triangle is like Mickey Mouse, because Oxford and Cambridge are like the ears on Mickey Mouse. Boris didn’t take up that suggestion. It’s fair enough comparing London to a toilet, or armpit, in a triangle, but describing it as “Mickey Mouse” is going a bit far, it seems Boris thinks.

In the end, hands were shaken on describing London as the “dog leg” of the Golden Triangle. Great.

Presumably, a dog leg cocked (or crooked?) over the U-bend of the Golden Triangle.

While we were assimilating all those pot shots at mixed allegorical imperfection, Boris threw in:

Nothing propinks like propinquity

That threw me. It turns out to be a quote from Ian Fleming’s ‘Diamonds are Forever’. It seems to mean that nothing makes people nearer than being near. Like people being in Oxford and Cambridge and London. Really propinquitous.

Then we were treated to Boris avoiding supporting Maria Miller for two minutes before ending with the words:

Nemo iudex in causa sua

I did Latin at school. But I had to look that one up. I do wonder what percentage of the Today audience knew what the hell Boris was on about. Probably about one per cent.

Imagine someone like Norman Lamb describing the Golden Triangle of life sciences in England. It would be relatively smooth and the point would come across.

The point was eventually got across by Boris. But the elaborate concoction of mixed allegories, aphorisms, Latin mottos and general huffing and puffing turns the whole thing into a rather painful street show.

Move along now, nothing to see here.

Come on Somerville College!

imageBelieve it or not, the University Challenge episode tomorrow night is the 37th of the series. The series seems to have gone on for several years. And there seemed to be about 13 quarter finals.

I realise that the final programme has already been recorded and sits somewhere on the BBC hard drives, with all involved sworn to secrecy. So going “Come on Somerville” is neither here nor there. In fact, the Cambridge lot in opposition are a fairly inspiring lot. But, in our household we have are very much Somerville supporters.

There’s Chris Beer on the right, who spits out answers on the most obscure subjects without blinking an eyelid. He correctly identified an Albert Camus quote about playing in goal in football. As someone who trawled through both the English and the French versions of “La Peste” with some enjoyment, Mr Beer has my great admiration purely for that.

But we have a particular soft spot for the captain, Michael Davies (as does Stephen Fry and assorted Twitteratti). He’s an excellent captain, consulting well with his colleagues before every answer. He has the most amazing breadth of knowledge, which he employs effortlessly. When the other side are in the ascendent, he is remarkably unflustered. He is remarkably cheerful throughout.

But most of all, we like him for his cheery side-to-side wave at the end! (Unfortunately the BBC iplayer snapshot above doesn’t do it full justice.)