By Bev Haigh-Jones

Image by OpenIcons from Pixabay

Government gaffes – some being called out even by their own party. An article by Samuel Earle in the Guardian, gives an interesting take on the Tory Party’s modus operandi, though in view of recent events, perhaps things aren’t entirely continuing to go to plan. There have been a number of embarrassing spectacles since Rishi Sunak took office and one that stands out is the shredder campaign video claiming that he would “shred” all EU laws in his first 100 days – all 2,400 of them! The true figure has now been identified as closer to 5,000 and counting, plus under pressure from the Lords the government have now made drastic modifications to the proposal and Kemi Badenoch announced that even fewer laws would be repealed and the sunset clause would be removed. Unfortunately for her, she chose to make the announcement to a newspaper and with a written statement to ministers, rather than bringing the matter to the House first. This did not go down well with the Speaker, Lindsay Hoyle, as can be seen here, and the announcement itself was less than popular with her fellow Tories.

Sunak has also come in for a lot of criticism from the various “fringe” elements of the Tory party. At the recent NatCon UK (National Conservatism) Conference, Jacob Rees-Mogg accused the government of gerrymandering with its new voter ID legislation and suggested that it had backfired. (More on that later.) Although left-wing media were banned from reporting at the conference, openDemocracy managed to gain access and a brief report, including a statement from a protestor, can be seen here, and more information is available on their website.

Corruption allegations are still plaguing the government on a regular basis, with the latest being related to the proposed Teeside Freeport Development, and it was also revealed that Bim Afolami was paid for lobbying. Meanwhile, in response to the Raab enquiry and his subsequent resignation, the government is considering yet more assaults on our democratic system by suggesting the possible politicisation of the civil service.

Encouragingly, the Green Party peer, Baroness Jenny Jones, gave a comprehensive and scathing summary of this government’s performance in her recent speech in the House of Lords.

Voter ID – the impact at the ballot box. As previously mentioned, Jacob Rees-Mogg has publicly accused the government of an attempt at gerrymandering with their new voter ID laws, though he believes that they backfired. Most of us had already assumed that this was the case, so the only surprise is that he is admitting it, but the worrying aspect of the whole scheme is the result at the ballot boxes, as reported by Byline Times. There have been suggestions that 10-25% of potential voters were turned away from the polling stations and it seems that even some of those who attempted to obtain voter authorisations may have had their applications rejected.

Boris Johnson – just when you probably thought, (or hoped) that he had disappeared from view. Many will have heard that Johnson and family spent Easter at the Caribbean villa of the tycoon at the heart of the row over the BBC Chair, but had you heard that another of the “fringe” Tory organisations, this time the Conservative Democratic Organisation, seem intent on a “bring back Boris” campaign? Despite recent negative publicity, such as the report on his purchase of a house for £3.8m in cash (even though he had complained about his salary when he was PM), he nevertheless produced an election campaign video for Derbyshire Conservatives telling us how well we are all doing, but unfortunately, he committed the same faux pas as Rishi Sunak in that he was not wearing a seat belt.

So it seems that we have not seen the last of Johnson yet, though if enough people read and absorbed the rather damning bio by Anthony Seldon and Raymond Newell, perhaps it would be a different story.

Immigration, illegal or otherwise, is never far from the headlines and continues to divide the nation. Sadly, the comments made by Home Secretary Suella Braverman regarding immigrants wishing to enter the UK do not improve, and were described recently by Lord Dubs as “despicable”. The proposal to amend the Illegal Migration Bill to allow ministers to ignore interim injunctions – known as Rule 39 orders – from the European Court of Human Rights, was deemed to undermine the rule of law by the Bar Council, who have grave concerns about the plan and say it would set a dangerous precedent. Naturally, when viewing the voting figures in parliament, there is a very clear party division between the Ayes and the Noes with Tory, DUP and some Independent voting in favour and everyone else voting against.

Fortunately, there are many people who see the government’s plan for what it is. Take Andrew Marr, for instance, or this lady speaking on BBC’s Question Time. And who can fail to be moved by stories of people who are affected by changes in immigration law, even if not directly, then mentally, as a result of feeling unwelcome in the country that they call home. The European Movement have produced two such stories on video, one from Gui and Leo, and one from Sally.

Brexit benefits – those elusive promises that have never seemed to materialise. There have been quite a number of reports this last month confirming what we all know – Brexit has been a financial disaster, as well as a social one. More companies have stated that they can no longer stay in business because of cost and difficulty of trading, and more large manufacturers have said that they will set up new centres in other countries, rather than the UK. The EU have announced that they are setting up a framework to combat drug shortages, but sadly, of course, we will not be benefiting from the scheme, and one of our own CfE members made contact to tell us that many of the European antiquarian booksellers who would normally attend the large book fair in London this month will not be there, as it is now simply too much hassle.

There are a couple of positives to report, though. Robert Peston tweeted that in an inaugural youth survey 86% of young people aged 18-25 would vote to rejoin the EU if there was another referendum. And finally, Nigel Farage has admitted that Brexit isn’t working. At the time of campaigning he stated that if Brexit didn’t work he would leave the country – is it goodbye, then, Nigel?

If you would like to vent your frustration over post-Brexit conditions in the UK, Yorkshire Bylines are running a campaign asking people to send a copy of their Davis Downside Dossier to their MP. It is an easy process that can be accessed here.

Now to more local issues. Sad to say, the issue of sewage discharges has not gone away and Surfers Against Sewage report that in 2022 South West Water dumped raw sewage to the equivalent of 103 times every day. Some drastic action has to be taken, but in the meantime there is a Safer Seas and Rivers Service app that you can consult if you are thinking of visiting the coast. **STOP PRESS** – Water companies have now announced that they will be spending £10bn between now and 2030 to improve the situation, but they have also said that this will result in increased water bills!

Staying on the water theme, a worrying article in South West Farmer warns that water demands will outstrip supply by the 2030s. Another major challenge that needs to be addressed urgently by the water companies.

Back to the government and this time funding for vital projects. A plan for improvements to the A38 to reduce the number of serious accidents and improve safety for residents had been approved in 2022, but has now been delayed until some time after 2030. Also on roads, potholes continue to make life a misery for many Cornwall residents and road users. In Lostwithiel, however, one resident attempted to improve the situation so that the affected road could be reopened, but the council have insisted on closing it again, stating that it won’t reopen until after they have done their own repairs, but as the back log is great, no timescales have been given.

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