A Conservative-Referendum Party: the vindication of Sir James Goldsmith

Published by Daily Mail

Jimmy Goldsmith2

The House of Commons has inched closer toward legislation that will, at long last, give the British people an In-Out referendum on our troubled membership of the European Union.

The whipped private member’s bill proposed by Conservative MP James Wharton may be an irregular use of a technical parliamentary process; it may not have much cross-party support; it may be a cynical device to stem the rising tide of Ukip; and it may not be binding on a future parliament. But there is no doubt that if this Bill were to become law and the Conservatives were to win an outright Commons majority at the next General Election, it would be political suicide for David Cameron (or any Conservative leader) to repeal this particular sovereign Act of Parliament. Continue reading

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Music, Hymns, Poetry and Scripture – the solemn majesty of Lady Thatcher’s funeral

Published by ConservativeHome

Lady Thatcher St Mary Undercroft 2

The chimes of Big Ben did not strike 10am. For three whole hours they were silenced in reverence, as London paused and the flags of England bowed. Draped in the red, white and blue of the country she loved, the coffin carrying the body of the late Margaret Thatcher made its way out of the Crypt of St Mary Undercroft, past the statue of Richard Coeur de Lion, the kingly symbol of England’s enduring Christian faith; and then past Cromwell, sword in one hand and Bible in the other, forever reminding us that the people are sovereign, Parliament is supreme, and God makes the law. And then she passed by Churchill, the last prime minister to defend these islands against invasion and the indignity of surrender to a foreign power.

Emmeline Pankhurst looked on, smiling at the fulfilment of her revolution. Nelson and the proud lions of Trafalgar joined in the homage – with spontaneous applause from the thousands who lined the streets to honour the longest-serving prime minister of the 20th century. She was, by popular consent, the greatest of our post-war leaders: after Churchill, the most remarkable and heroic of this second Elizabethan age. An intimate service in a Grantham chapel would have left the world asking: “What ceremony else?” So, black horses, a 1.5 ton gun carriage, cathedral bells, the insignia of the Armed Forces and the Queen herself all joined together in tribute to The Lady. Anything less would have shamed the nation. Continue reading

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Honoris causa? Margaret Thatcher and the eternal shame of Oxford University

Published by Daily Mail

Lady TWhen news of Margaret Thatcher’s death reached her alma mater, Oxford University, the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andrew Hamilton, put out a terse statement: ‘As Britain’s first female prime minister, and one of its longest serving, Baroness Thatcher ranks among the most prominent of Oxford’s alumni. One of the foremost politicians of her age, historians will debate her legacy for decades to come; today we remember a graduate of the University who reached the highest public office and had a lasting impact on British politics and society.’

It was carefully worded. With the neutral observation that ‘historians will debate her legacy for decades to come’, and a passing mention of her ‘lasting impact on British politics and society’, Professor Hamilton trod delicately. He couldn’t say nothing, but neither could he say much at all beyond the facts: the merest whiff of praise for her accomplishments would have risked the ire of the Congregation – the academics who make up the governing body of the University, most of whom voted against awarding her an honorary doctorate back in 1985. Continue reading

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The Coalition rides roughshod over the Constitution

Published by Daily Mail

Queen coronationI have for many years opposed amending the Act of Settlement 1701, in particular those historic clauses which refer to the Protestant Settlement between the people, the Monarchy and the Established Church. I understand, to some, that this puts me in the ‘extremist bigot’ category, somewhere above Enoch Powell but still a little way beneath the Rev’d Dr Ian Paisley. That was the view taken by the Catholic Herald back in 2005, when they demanded that Michael Howard dismiss me as a Conservative parliamentary candidate over articles I had written on the matter for The Spectator two years earlier (which had been evaluated by the Chief Whip, no less). But there was no reasoning with the ‘something-of-the-night’ autocrat. Thankfully, more mature minds (like Charles Moore, William Rees-Mogg, Ann Widdecombe and Boris Johnson) fully understood my concerns, which were based on theological knowledge and constitutional history rather than any irrational prejudice or ‘bigotry’. Continue reading

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EU plans to adopt Shakespeare as ‘Euro-laureate’

Published by Daily Mail

Shakespeare3On April 23rd 2016 – and probably throughout the entire year – we will celebrate the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. By ‘we’ I mean not only England and the English, or the United Kingdom and the British, but all nations and cultures of the world where Shakespeare is a passion, pastime or of any scholarly interest. And that necessarily embraces the whole of civilisation. As the holder of the Guinness World Record for performing the Complete Works single-handedly non-stop (five days without sleep – never again), I’ll certainly be raising a glass or two to the world’s greatest poet-playwright.

My record still stands after 25 years, and has just been re-published in the 2013 edition of the Guinness Book of Records. I will forever be grateful to those fine English teachers I had at school – Roger Calvert, Daphne Cooper and Jean Tidy – who between the years that spanned my O-levels and A-levels introduced me to Julius Caesar, Twelfth Night, Antony & Cleopatra, Coriolanus, Measure for Measure and King Lear. From the academic confines of the classroom to the emotional exuberance of the school play, I found my soul simultaneously steeped in dramatic greatness, lyrical beauty and profound wisdom: ineffable, noetic, passive – it was like a religious experience. Every visit I made to Stratford-upon-Avon became a pilgrimage: sometimes wrestling with darkness and devils, and then rejoicing with angels and ministers of grace. Continue reading

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Eric Pickles confronts over-zealous EU planning directives

Published by Daily Mail

Eric Pickles union flagThe Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the irrepressible Rt. Hon. Eric Pickles MP, has apparently had enough of the EU’s Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA). These demand in-depth screening, scoping and consultation on all major planning and development projects, and have long played havoc with domestic planning law as every road, railway, factory and housing estate becomes mired in months and years of delay as bats are counted, wind-speed recorded, decibels measured and earthquake risks monitored.

Every brown-field site is seemingly treated as a putative Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty as each development has become subject to uniform assessment criteria. And it’s not only the hassle of delay, but the additional significant costs on the whole planning process. Quite why our own town and country planning systems in England and the devolved administrations can’t be trusted to conserve our own birds and bees is something of a mystery. But in local government there is almost a default fealty to EU supervision and oversight as the planning regime has become increasingly subservient to European Union law. Continue reading

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Guy Fawkes’ Night is a perpetual celebration of liberty over tyranny

Published by Daily Mail

Parliament burningI don’t know David Cameron very well: I’ve met him on four or five occasions, the most interesting of which was sitting next to him at a dinner a few years ago, during which we discussed some serious issues relating to education and a few more weighty matters of political philosophy. On education, he appeared to agree with everything I said. On philosophy, he appeared to agree with everything I said. His mission seemed to be to nod and smile benignly; to appear pleasant, intuitive and empathetic.

I know Dominic Grieve rather better, having met him dozens of times since he entered Parliament (he’s my MP) and having been his association deputy chairman in Beaconsfield. He is also pleasant and articulate, though more cerebral than intuitive, and more intellectually incisive than reassuringly empathetic. Continue reading

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The irony of awarding the Nobel Peace Prize ‘where there is no peace’

Published by Daily Mail

Nazi GreeceThe 2012 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to the European Union – a political construct designed (we were told) to ameliorate trade and improve our balance of payments, but always known (and openly declared) on the Continent to have been concerned with values, rights and deeper political motives. Of course there was a strong desire to bring to an end a thousand years of turbulence and war between the Frankish and Germanic peoples: the quest for a Teutonic Order has been a long and bloody one. But it’s something of a propaganda distortion to attribute 60 years of peace in Europe to the existence of the EU. What would Alfred Nobel make of this cynical abuse of his legacy?

There’s a certain irony in awarding his prestigious Peace Prize to a union of nations which is presently being ripped apart by fiscal anarchy and economic folly. While the Greeks are burning German flags and Croatians are burning EU flags, Herman Van Rompuy seems to shuffle on obliviously. Continue reading

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Eric Pickles confronts Eurostat by abolishing regional statistics

Published by Daily Mail

Eric Pickles very happy indeedyThis might seem like a very small victory, or a relatively insignificant retraction from the onward progression of the EU’s ‘ever closer union’ which has (until very recently) seemed inexorably one-way. But Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, has firmly rebuffed the pompous Europhile academics and statisticians who demand unquestioning compliance to EUniformity.

From the end of October, the Department of Communities and Local Government will no longer collate or publish data based on the EU’s regions, which form part of the administrative landscape in all member states. Instead, data will be gathered along distinctly UK business and council-led Local Enterprise Partnership boundaries, to complement existing statistics gathered by local authorities. Continue reading

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Why the London Olympics herald our exit from the EU

Published by Daily Mail

Olympic union jackHistoric, patriotic, intoxicating, mesmerising: “Team GB’s heroic success seems to have re-awoken in us our sense of national pride,” wrote Sir Roger Bannister, the first man ever to run a mile in under four minutes, “a realisation perhaps that, as a people, we have the ability, the drive and the determination to be great.”

Sir Roger is one of Britain’s greatest sporting legends, into which pantheon can now be added the likes of Mo Farah, Bradley Wiggins and Chris Hoy – people whose achievements are not merely exceptional, but truly and monumentally great. And that greatness is measured not only in the extent to which a triumph or victory enters the national consciousness – which is ephemeral – but also in proportion to its longevity in the league tables of history: to surpass is admirable, but to pioneer is unique and non-replicable. There is only one who can be the first. Continue reading

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