No sooner had the Tory cat (David Cameron) gone off to Portugal, than the mice began to play back home. Sayeeda Warsi’s resigned and Boris Johnson threw down his Westminster gauntlet.
The press has concentrated on the criticism of the Prime Minister’s stance on Gaza but Warsi’s statement also contained significant criticism of his European Union policy and this was picked up by North West Tory MEP Saj Karim.
Karim began life as a Lib Dem MEP and clearly retains his pro European credentials. He joined Warsi’s criticism of the government’s Gaza policy saying Israel was being given more room than any other state but then went on to refer to the “directional shift” in European policy. He told the BBC that we would miss the advice of Ken Clarke and former Attorney General Dominic Grieve and could be embarked on a path to undermine our ability to negotiate concessions from the EU.
Ken Clarke has been the most prominent pro European Tory member of this Cabinet and Grieve’s sacking is widely believed to have been to clear the way for a fundamental reshaping of our relationship with the European Court of Human Rights.
Warsi’s resignation may be quickly forgotten, particularly if the Gaza ceasefire holds. However her criticism of the sacking of pro European cabinet members may be the first sign of a real fightback by the EU positive wing of the Conservative Party who have been silenced by the Eurosceptic madness that has swept the party up to now.
NO LEAP FOR THE SALMON.
After years of being called dull and boring the former Tory Chancellor Sir Geoffrey Howe had one great speech in him and it helped to bring down the mighty Margaret Thatcher.
Another former Chancellor, Alistair Darling has been similarly criticised for being dull. However on Tuesday those distinctive black eyebrows were fairly bristling during his debate with the leader of the Scottish Government, Alex Salmond. Darling believes we are better together and hammered away at what an independent Scotland would do for a currency. Mr Salmond, who had a great reception in Liverpool the other week, was deflated by the onslaught. It may have been Darling’s Geoffrey Howe moment and it may have saved the Union.
I was travelling back from London the other day and it soon became apparent that the lady in front of me had got the wrong train. Instead of getting off at Milton Keynes, I told her the first stop would be Warrington. She phoned her waiting father with the bad news and in desperate tones asked him “Where is Warrington?”
The question had the fearful tone that I expect Russian dissidents expressed when they were told they were heading for exile in Novosibirsk, Siberia.
I don’t think she had ventured out of the South East before. The episode highlighted once again for me that for people living in the London area, the North is another country. It is a mindset which has influenced government policy and led to massive underinvestment in our transport infrastructure.
Let’s see if that’s going to change. It has taken years to begin to repair the damage done by the coalition in dismantling regional policy but now our big cities like Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool are trying to force the Chancellor to make real his pledge to create a powerhouse of the northern cities.
It may help that George Osborne is the MP for Tatton and will listen to demands for £15bn spending on trans Pennine transport links. He’s called the plan “imaginative” and promises a full response in the Autumn Statement.
Let’s see if big city power can deliver.
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