Punch and Judy Politics

Recently, I promised a post about books that got rave reviews from everyone but me.  And in the end, I haven’t done it.  It turned out there weren’t so many after all.

So instead, I’m going to tell you about a book which I enjoyed, hugely, even though it’s about politics, which I don’t enjoy hugely (Does anybody, anywhere at the moment?).  This is a thoroughly out-of-character read for me.

It’s  Punch and Judy Politics, by Ayesha Hazarika and Tom Hamilton.  And it’s about Prime Ministers’ Question time, that peculiarly British institution when once a week on Wednesdays, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition face one another across a crowded chamber, filled with heckling, shouting, cheering and far-from-silent MPs.

I was drawn in from the first sentences.‘ You’re the Leader of the Opposition. it’s your job to choose one of the week’s top political news stories and write six questions to the Prime Minister about it. Not exam questions, not questions you might ask an expert, but awkward, hostile questions that will put the Prime Minister on the back foot ….’.

I was immediately interested. This book describes how PMQs play a defining role in British politics. This once-a-week contest between Prime Minister and Opposite Number forces each of the pair not only to prepare well, backed by a team of advisers, but to examine their own policies, and understand where and why they might be weak. Preparing to spar with their opponent, undermining them with clever questions, a wounding joke, an unreturnable rejoinder is an important and time-consuming part of their routine. Some participants have performed well – even extremely well: William Hague, David Cameron and Tony Blair generally rose well to the occasion. Others did not. Ian Duncan Smith never shone, and the current sparring partners, Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn bring no spark to the event.

Understanding more of this weekly show, and its purpose in building or destroying morale among the troops (the MPs), in providing fodder for the press, and in fine tuning policy has been illuminating.

It’s a thorough, informative and funny account of this peculiarly British institution. Of course I read it enthusiastically: one of the authors, Tom Hamilton, is my son.

Theresa May at PMQs: BBC image

 

Ragtag Tuesday: Dappled

‘Dappled’ is such a summery word.  It speaks of strolling through woodland on a sunny day, as the sunlight dances through the tree canopy to brindle the path below.  It defines the russet spots that stipple the silvery trout weaving around in a clear and still-flowing stream.  It describes a piebald foal frisking in a field alongside its mother.  And it’s sunlight streaming through the stained glass windows of a parish church, painting the cold stone floor with warmth.

 

That’s why I chose ‘Dappled’ as my Ragtag word prompt on this July day.

England’s green and pleasant land: also available in brown

The Yorkshire Dales, summer 2018 style.

Followers of this blog will be familiar with images of verdant meadows, of rolling green hillsides studded with sheep, of grasses swaying in the breeze – all illustrating our walks round Yorkshire.

Today though, I’m going to show you the same Yorkshire scenery, as it looks after a fortnight’s heatwave: the kind of consistently sunny weather that I can’t remember enjoying since I was pregnant with my son, back in 1976. We’re not used to this. Meals are taken in the garden. Our yoga class happens on the cricket pitch. Evenings are spent out of doors.

And the grumbling has started. ‘Eeh, it’s too ‘ot. It’s not natural, is it? I’ve ‘ad enough, me’ Not me. I’ll gladly lug watering cans about to water the flowerpots round the door. Though it might keep everyone happy if we could have nightly rainfall, strictly between the hours of 11.00 p.m. and 5.00 a.m.

Click on any image to view full size.

Ragtag Tuesday

When the WordPress Daily Prompts and Photo Challenges unexpectedly and abruptly stopped, many bloggers felt deprived.  Some already had prompting challenges of their own: but a group of disheartened bloggers somehow connected together and set about replicating the WordPress prompts under the banner Ragtag Daily Prompt.  They began on 1st June.

However, they had a couple of vacancies.  They advertised.  I applied.  They offered me the Tuesday spot.  You can find my first post here today.

Here’s the story of how bloggers from four continents formed a community which writers, photographers, poets are joining by contributing their work.  Daily blogging ain’t for me.  But I do love a weekly prompt, and connecting  with others from all points of the compass.  Thanks to all you fellow-bloggers whom I’ve come to know in the last few years: it’s been enriching.

Today, I’m not offering much.  I’m simply showing you three photos, all illustrating the first word I’ve chosen: ‘serried‘.

Castle Howard

The weather is far too glorious to sit inside reading and writing blog posts. Let’s just go for a walk round the grounds of Castle Howard, which everyone of my generation knows as the star of  the 1981 production of Brideshead Revisited on ITV. If you want to know more about the building’s real history, just look here.

For a closer look at any photo, click on the image.

Snapshot Saturday is being replaced by Ragtag Tuesday: watch this space.

This Brexit Business: marching for the People’s Vote

The march, as seen in a plate glass window.

On Saturday morning, we got up at 4.30 a.m. and didn’t get to bed again till 12.30 on Sunday morning.  In between, we drove to York; forked out £60 for tickets and travelled in a coach to London where we spent the day marching, before reversing the procedure in the early evening.  At our ages – we’re both long past retirement age – you don’t do things like that unless it’s for something really important.

It is. For us, and on behalf of our children and grandchildren, this Brexit Business matters more than almost anything else.

We are members of North Yorkshire for Europe, and joined for the day with York for Europe.  We came to London to march and campaign for a People’s Vote on the Brexit deal.

York and North Yorkshire organise themselves.

Don’t talk to us about the Referendum being the last word on The Will of the People (a barely more than 50% of those who voted changing the course of a nation’s history?).  Don’t tell us what The People voted for – nobody exactly knows.  Don’t tell us that when companies like Airbus and Siemens warn they may have to leave the UK in the event of a no-deal, that they are simply part of an irresponsible Project Fear.  Yes, we are fearful of Brexit: for us, for our families, for those in insecure employment, for those European citizens now resident here who had considered the UK their home.

On arrival in central London, we joined 100, 000 others on a slow two hour march down Pall Mall to Trafalgar Square and Whitehall and into Parliament Square, which completely failed to accommodate us all.

Despite our serious purpose, we had fun.  Look at the banners, the flags, the posters, the facepaint and wigs; the young, the old: marching, hobbling, manoeuvring wheelchairs and buggies – you’ll even spot one fellow being carried by Donald Trump (as if …).  We enjoyed Mexican cheers (the vocal version of a Mexican wave), bouts of chanting (‘What do we want?’ ‘A People’s Vote!’ ‘When do we want it?’ ‘Now!’).  We chatted with marchers from Wales, Devon, Germany, Reading, France, Lambeth, Scotland…..

Then speeches. Rousing, energising speeches from the likes of Caroline Lucas MP, Tony Robinson, Vince Cable MP, David Lammy MP.  Passionate speeches from a hospital consultant, from the young people of OFOC (Our Future, Our Choice).  Video contributions from a WWII veteran and from Chuka Umunna MP.  We cheered them all, and at the end, especially the courageous Tory MP Anna Soubry.

What we want is a People’s Vote on the final Brexit deal, because apart from a principled few, most MPs are obeying the Whips and toeing the party line, regardless of either their own beliefs, or those of their constituents. If you voted for Brexit, and the government comes up with a good deal for the British people, you have nothing to fear from a People’s Vote.  The government will win the day, and we Remoaners will have to shut up.

If you think that, having learned the terms of the Final Deal, the people should have the Final Say, please sign the petition for The People’s Vote.  It’s here.

PS.  The Daily Express front page on the day of the march…..  there are no words…. don’t they read the news?

  Click on any image to see full size.