Well, Monday has brought a bucketful of stories to mull over.
Let’s start abroad for a change. The biggy story there at the moment is about Mugabe and his scary wife. First Mugabe is deposed as president - but in a kindly, bloodless way - and then politely asked to resign his leadership and make way for political change in Zimbabwe. Not too surprisingly, the power obsessed Mugabe says ‘No !’ and refuses to voluntarily leave - along with scary wife. Now he faces impeachment amid a mounting swell of opposition to his very presence in the country. If Mugabe and scary wife imagine they’re now going to walk peaceably into the semantics of a Zimbabwean legal tussle I’m quite sure he’ll be disappointed. On the streets, a lynch-mob mentality is growing - and we all know how quickly things can get out of hand anywhere across Africa. If this despot has any remaining sense (though we all question whether he ever had any to start with) he’ll relinquish the presidency and take scary wife off to some exile location - preferably not anywhere near Britain.
El Trumpo has described North Korea as ‘a sponsor of terror’. Unusually, I don’t think anyone in the West is going to argue too much over that description. However, what it shows up is President Trump back-pedalling on his former, aggressive and bellicose jibes about North Korea - which is something entirely predictable from this irascible man. In the exchange of such threats, insults, claims Trump exposes himself to climb-down whereas Kim jong un has no such scruples and would gladly launch a few missiles at the West and claim national martyrdom when the West retaliated. Neither of them hold the right position, they merely inflame each other - but the important distinction is that North Korea would press the launch button whilst the US probably wouldn’t until it became a retaliatory move. What will the history of the 21st century have to say about the worlds acquiescence to despots, tyrants and madmen ?
Closer to home, but not there yet, we see Angela Merkel in a bit of a political spot. Poor election results have weakened her position significantly and the consequent failure to form a meaningful coalition government leave Germany on the cusp of another election. But everyone fears the advance of the right wing if another election is held and that would be something of a replay of the 1934 elections when a certain fascist leader started to stamp his mark upon Germany’s soul. And Germany is paranoid about its past. This is the subject that agitates Germans most of all and despite the growing popularity of factions like the AfD there is a genuine fear that they’ll start to slide down the slippery slope to another phase of totalitarianism if they opt for more electoral choices. Oh dear. Clearly nobody in their right mind would wish to see a fascist state re-emerge in Western Europe and the EU will be quaking in their boots as they envision their biggest financial contributor potentially falling by the wayside after Britain’s departure. That would see the end of the EU federalist dream and leave Germany, central amongst all European nations, looking very isolated yet dangerous.
In Brussels, the EU’s chief negotiator on Brexit has stumped up a real stocker of a declaration along the lines of: ‘When you leave the EU you cannot start to dismantle any EU red-tape and bureaucratic idiocy, because if you do any trade deal will be negated immediately.’ Now what is this little outburst really saying ? It could just be frustration over his perception of Britain’s approach to the negotiations (which we’ve all got to concede has been pretty deplorable thus far) or it could be a less than subtle sign that the EU has no intention of giving Britain any sort of trade deal that is fair and equitable, ergo, ‘Don’t you crazy Anglais imagine you’re going to be better off than before ‘cos we aren’t going to give you any sort of deal unless you pay us squillions of euros to ensure our fat-cat jobs are protected’. We seem to be at the mutual threats stage on Brexit, don’t we ? Whilst Mr Hammond may be urging Mrs May to fork out the full Brexit sum - anything above €55 billion could be the figure - I suspect her own concession to increasing the pay-out is much more modest in size - perhaps another €10 billion on top of the €20 billion already promised. Whatever the figure, we’ll have to pay for a trade deal, or at least a seat at the trade deal talks. And if that is successful (?) then we have at least a two year transitional period where we’ll still be under the ECJ’s legal jurisdiction and paying a full EU contribution to boot. Mr Barnier is no fool, but he might just push Britain that one political step too far and we’ll declare UDI and go for a no deal exit. The whole saga is a mess, but it might just get messier.
And finally to home ground. Just before a key budget revelation by Mr Hammond, the special cabinet advisor on economic affairs resigns alleging that ‘there is no coherent economic policy’ to pursue in this country. Now that’s going to get tongues wagging, for sure. And Mr Hammond ? He probably doesn’t realise this bloke has gone...’Er, what was his name ? Oh yes, I do recall him lurking around the Treasury a few times but I never knew what he did. Was it important ?’ We’ll see on Wednesday.