After a week of internet and web crises, Bristling Brock is back....
Much seems to have happened in the last week, highlighted by some of the poorly judged and flabby comments made by our senior ministers at the Davos forum. And the papers are full of it - some applauding the weakness of our continuing approach to Brexit and a growing number vocally chastising the government for diluting the process to such an extent that in effect Britain will remain an associate member of the EU. And this seems to be the most widely upheld view of the government - a weak, chaotic, divided and uncertain cabinet that really is fighting two battles - one to give the impression that it is fulfilling the referendum mandate and one that it is trying to engineer circumstances so that Britain remains glued to the EU in everything but name.
It is failing in both ways. It is failing to convince the Leave electorate that it is doing all it can to develop a robust negotiating position with the EU and in that there is the inherent and growing sense that the government are deliberately dragging their feet, being passive, unassertive and cowing to EU pressures without counter arguing the position. The prospect of the government seeking a three year (or longer) transition period after exit with the consequent linkage to EU rules, budget contributions and ECJ rulings is a classic example of the governments intent (and let us not forget that that would take us to 2022 when the next election is due). And that is due to two factors - weak and indecisive leadership and an ineptitude towards the game they are playing - after all, it is not really a game they ever wanted to play and the refusal to accept the referendum mandate is ideologically lodged in their minds. We might re-kindle an old word for this state of mind - Refuseniks. On the flip-side, the government are equally failing to convey to the EU that they really don't want to leave by virtue of contradictory signals, associations and a distinct lack of clarity over what they actually do want. Yet again, this is attributable to weak leadership and indecisiveness.
I'm encouraged by the growing frustration amongst Eurosceptic MP's over the governments handling of Brexit. Jacob Rees-Mogg's sanguine appraisal of the government is without equal - and he is right. But is all this going to lead to either an election or a change in government leadership ? Much is being said of both options. An election would almost certainly enable Jeremy Corbyn to get to No.10 - a definite no,no. A leadership change looks more likely, and this would most definitely upset the Whitehall bandwagon who are constantly manoeuvring for a super-soft Brexit as their best option. Is the Mogg up for this challenge, I wonder (hopefully), or will Boris be there to champion the Leave cause or will that ever clever but devious Gove fellow see an opportunity ? Who is to say, but let us not forget that whoever picks up this baton will have a party political shadow watching over him/her, an ever present reminder that 'The Party' and electoral gain is a key factor in the gameplay that will follow. Nonetheless, I look for such a change and a vigorous prosecution of the Brexit process. What we have now is little more than a joke.
Trump and May seem to go through this charade of chuminess when meeting in public but there is little doubt that her bemused and often slightly alarmed look is down to the fact that she is very much the servant in the relationship. Trump has either engineered (is he that clever ?) or accidentally found a more amenable global position and has left Davos feeling a bit cock-a-hoop. Talk of special trade deals and preferential treatment of Britain do not erase the fact that in such circumstances Britain could well transfer its vassal status from Europe to the US. We need a sharp government to keep an eye on this.
The BBC's angst over gender pay-gaps is getting more barmy by the day. As I understand it, most of these so-called celebrity presenters are self-employed and under individual contract to the Beeb. Within that status there is the premise that a negotiation takes place, terms and conditions are discussed and eventually a contract signed - presumably willfully. This isn't to say that some of the salaries being bandied about aren't far too and excessively high but it is about agreements made between willing partners. If some of the lady presenters didn't like what they were being offered then why did they accept the role ? It is naive of them to say that they didn't know what corresponding men presenters were receiving - even in the most general terms - for that was part of each individuals negotiating position at the outset and is down to individuals securing the best deal they can get. That's nothing to do with gender, it's to do with the strength of the negotiation. Does Carrie Gracie, for example, quibble over the outrageous salary paid to Claudia Winkleman ? I suspect not and raises the thought that this isn't about gender equality, it's about sour grapes at having been outwitted during the negotiation.