Yesterday’s ‘performance’ in parliament was a shameful episode which should have the prime minister and his attorney general hanging their heads in shame. They won’t be doing so, of course, because it seems they have no shame. They have decided to engage the nuclear option – “Boris and the people against parliament and the establishment”; a very dangerous proceeding which could backfire badly, but the only strategy they appear to have left.
The prime minister says the supreme court was wrong. At least one other tory MP says the supreme court made new law. No. The courts, even the supreme court, do not make the law. Only parliament can do that. The courts interpret the law, but they can set precedents in interpretation under different circumstances. So, one may disagree with the interpretation of that law, but that does not mean the judgement is wrong. In this case, eleven senior justices were unanimous; hardly a marginal decision. And as an aside, surely a child of ten could see that proroguing parliament now, at a time of national crisis, and claiming that it has nothing to do with the EU departure, is just – let’s call it what it is – a damned lie.
Furthermore, it seems that the prime minister has implied that he might not obey the statute that says this country must not leave the EU without a deal. He is treading very dangerous ground there. If citizens decide to ‘pick-and-mix’ what laws they will obey and which they will ignore, anarchy reigns. And this is a tory prime minister, the traditional party of law and order.
I have called before in these posts for compromise and sober reflection on this most divisive of issues. The result of yesterday’s disgraceful scenes in parliament will only have the effect of entrenching extreme views in the country. If the prime minister has any shred of decency left he will reflect on the danger of this situation, and, for once, consider the well-being of the entire country – not just those who voted to leave – and seek a cross-party consensus on a compromise.
One of the more depressing aspects of the climate-change issue, is that there remain a number of high-profile people who refuse to believe that it exists and is either substantially or significantly a result of human activity. Some even get angry when accused of being climate-change deniers, claiming that they are just being ‘open-minded’.
Deniers are usually free-market enthusiasts, almost always well to the right of centre. (Nigel Lawson is one; he has written a rather grubby little book on the subject.) These people insist that the computer models are flawed, there is very little real evidence, there is no consensus among experts, and the undeniable global warming that is taking place could be the result of purely natural processes. They claim also that the costs of stopping or reversing warming are so astronomical, that surely we need more firm evidence before committing the countries of the world to an expense that may, in the end, make no difference. And in any case, if the world is warming, will it really be that bad?
The real question to ponder is this: if there is credible evidence of climate change and the catastrophic effect it will have on the planet and the six or so billion people living on it, can we really afford not to spend money now to prevent it?
Well, allow me to add my twopenn’orth of evidence on the subject. In the early 1970s I lived for a while in the picturesque village of Wivenhoe on the River Colne not far from Colchester. Just over the road from our house was a woodyard receiving deliveries from Polish freighters coming up the river at high tide. Every now and then one of them would get ‘neaped’ – when it went aground near a spring high tide and had to wait two weeks for the next high water to float it off. This grounding was assisted, it was rumoured darkly, by 80% proof Polish vodka, some of which even found its way into the hands of the local villagers…
We had some very good times there and it was a fun place to live, so I was alarmed some years ago to see that a barrier had been built across the river to protect Colchester from tidal surges and the rising sea level. Sea levels are rising at the rate of around 3 mm in a year as the sea warms up – that’s more than five inches since I lived there. And for Essex it is worse, because the land is also sinking … The Environmental Agency spent £14.5M on the barrier, and I now know why. I have been unable to find out what the actual sea-level increase has been at Wivenhoe, but this week I had first hand evidence of its consequences.
Taking advantage of some late September good weather, I took the boat up the Colne from Brightlingsea and moored up on the Wivenhoe Sailing Club pontoons for lunch. The locals told me the Black Buoy was best for food and so it proved to be.
As I walked to the pub I noticed a large puddle in the road which puzzled me, since there had not been any rain for several days. Soon, however, the reason for the puddle was clear. The first picture shows the view from the window of the Black Buoy – the puddle is evident. The second picture shows what caused it …
As the tide came in it lapped the houses at the bottom of the street effectively cutting it off from that direction – although an intrepid white-van-man did drive through it at one point. The flood-barrier was not closed on this occasion, but it has been closed already several times this year.
This is the reality of global warming and the terrifying prospect of climate change. Admittedly, being close to the Autumnal equinox, the tides are particularly high at the moment, but I never remember the water lapping the houses during my time at Wivenhoe, and we lived very close to the quay.
So there is no need to visit the Pacific Islands, the Antarctic ice-shelf, the Greenland glaciers or indeed the now navigable northwest passage to see the evidence of climate change first hand. Come to rural Essex during the spring tides, but do bring a pair of wellingtons …
This was a sight to make any booklover’s blood run cold – a fire engine outside the British Library, with sprinklers in the upper storeys triggered.
The library is an oasis of civilization in a world gone mad. Obviously it is a place to go to use the books and other resources, but it is also so stimulating and calming just being there.
So when, yesterday, I was in one of the reading rooms and the fire-alarm went off, my heart sank. The staff very efficiently ushered us out on to the square in front of the library where the picture was taken.
I had visions of the great Library of Alexandria going up in flames … I said to the person next to me that I hoped it was a false alarm, particularly since my jacket and bag, complete with a ticket for that evening’s Prom Concert, was in a locker inside the building. With horror, I saw that some sprinklers high above us were showering water on to one of the roofs; it was also starting to rain …
But the gods smiled; there had been a malfunction of some sort, the fire-engine departed, and a few minutes later we were allowed back into the building.
Was it, I thought, a metaphor for what is happening to this country? I would like to think that the current situation with the government and parliament is a malfunction, which the big boys will come along and fix, assure us that everything is ok, and allow us back into the real world.
I had always thought that ‘Tosspot’ was a masturbatory term of abuse, when suddenly I came across the word in The Mayor of Casterbridge. Thomas Hardy’s novels were liberal in matters of sex, but I couldn’t see that word getting past the obscenity laws.
A little thought, and reference to that fount of all knowledge, Google, confirmed that the term refers to a habitual drinker.
I shall now have to come up with another description adequately to describe the First Lord of the Treasury …
A comment in the Sunday Times today, reminds us of another well-known, newly appointed populist European leader of recent times, who promptly closed down his parliament – one A. Hitler. He suspended the Reichstag only to see it burn down a few days later … Hmm. Aren't the Houses of Westminster due to be closed shortly for major renovations?
Talk of this reminds me of an amusing incident that occurred when I was a post-graduate student at Essex University in the early 1970s. The university was a hotbed of revolutionary socialism in those days, with several strikes and sit-ins happening during my time there.
During one such sit-in, a barrier of lockers was erected – with my office and the student union TV room inside the barrier. I was obliged to crawl through a tunnel to access my desk … My soon-to-be wife was visiting at the time, and I had found out that Triumph des Willens (Triumph of the Will) was to be shown on BBC 2 at 9 pm. This was a famous NAZI propaganda film made by Leni Riefenstahl that chronicled the 1934 Nürnberg rally. The film was fascinating and terrifying considering what was to come, but I could not see any politically correct reason for not watching it if challenged.
We crawled through the tunnel, and at 9 o’clock, surrounded by revolutionaries and no-one being much interested in the TV, I changed the channel to watch the film. Notwithstanding the content, it was electrifying, and we managed to see 20 minutes or so before anyone noticed all the swastika flags and recognised some of the ‘players’. Then someone did, and they commented that Albert Sloman was probably in there somewhere (he was the university Vice-Chancellor, the Antichrist and universal hate-figure among the students); we were obliged to turn it off.
Triumph of the Will should be watched by everyone. Right-wing populist political leaders are gaining power in more and more countries around the world. We need constantly to be reminded of how easy it is for apparently laudable aims – full employment, economic prosperity etc – to be subverted into misery, terror and death.
Welcome to the Mirli Books blog written by Peter Maggs