2007 - 2022

The Linesman and the Colonel

We’re supposed to think that there’s clear blue water between Ruth Davidson and Boris Johnson. One is supposed to be the socially progressive Remainer and the other the regressive Brexiteer. Articles about Davidson are required by law to mention that she is a lesbian kick-boxer, while articles about Johnson have to mention that he is a clubbable Etonian rogue. Yet they have much in common. Whilst Johnson represses democracy by denying a referendum for Scotland (under any circumstances) – Ruth Davidson on her appointment to the House of Lords will be able to vote on UK legislation without ever facing the electorate again for the rest of her life.

The Colonel joined Evgeny Lebedev, Sir Ian Botham, Ken Clarke, Philip Hammond, Patrick McLoughlin, Edward Lister, Charles Moore, Former Brexit Party MEP Claire Fox, Dame Louise Casey, the DUP’s Nigel Dodds – plus of course Theresa May’s hubby and Boris Johson’s brother in the Upper Chamber, where she’ll become a Baroness.

Colonel Baroness? Baroness Colonel? Lady Colonel? I don’t know how it works.

Interviewed by the BBC wearing a tartan jacket she claimed that she had accepted her life peerage in the House of Lords in order to make it more democratic. She was effectively going deep under cover we were told.

This is a farce.

Let’s be quite clear, this is reward for failure – with the House of Lords being used (as it always has been) as a repository for cronies and an Ermine cloak to shield a government of high sleaze. It’s not just full of the most venal appointments like Lebedev, or the most useless ones like Botham, but jammed with High Brexiteers just fresh off your telly campaigning about the “anti-democratic” nature of the EU.

Davidson led her party from one electoral defeat to another, and her much touted “success” was avoiding total annihilation and being slightly less repugnant than Annabel Goldie and slightly more charismatic than David McLetchie. Lesley Riddoch in her weekly podcast commented that Davidson taking a place in the House of Lords ridiculed “Everything she stood for”. But this is confused and confusing. What exactly did Davidson stand for? Apart from being NOT a tweedy landowning Tory archetype she didn’t stand for anything else other than her own craven and continued self-serving opportunism. In her entire eight year term as leader it’s challenging to think of a single policy initiative she can be associated with.
But what we do know is that the Conservatives are seriously rattled.
They are experts at fratricide, and even if they bungled this they got it over with quickly. Jackson Carlaw’s unlikely and unremarkable period as leader will be quickly forgotten. His exit had the whiff of Kevin Keegan about it, with him claiming he wasn’t really up for the job.
We know now the real reason for Johnson’s trip to Scotland and we know the – frankly bizarre – system they have concocted to manage the next eight months or so.  The Magical Davidson will return to the frontline at Holyrood whilst her junior leader will lead at Westminster. If this isn’t a recipe for disaster I don’t know what is.
The Tories have appointed the ruthless Isaac Levido – who ran Boris Johnson’s General Election campaign last year, and their strategy is to shift emphasis from the one-dimensional “Just say No” – “We said No and we meant it” mantra and to start attacking the SNP on their record in in office. Ross has intimated that he wants to “devolve” powers down to local authorities and represent rural Scotland. At one level this makes sense. The SNP are vulnerable on education – after this weeks SQA fiasco that’s an understatement, and playing to rural Scotland is a card that might pick up wavering Lib Dems and the soft-right. But nothing about a relentlessly centralising Conservative ethos makes this make any sense, and whilst the SNP are vulnerable on a raft of domestic policies the Tories have no credible alternatives. They will be the forever hectoring nay-sayers attached umbilically to the government we didn’t elect. The constitution – and their refusal to countenance any scenario whereby they would accede to a referendum is a fatal flaw. Even some of their supposed brightest sparks like Adam Tomkins have jumped ship.
Douglas Ross will be the forever-absent leader, whilst his stand-in will be an automatic lame-duck, biding her time waiting for her departure to the Lords. There’s some desperation in all of this, offset only by Scottish Labour’s uniquely grinding incompetence.
But Davidson’s elevation and resurrection wasn’t the only controversy about the Lords.
The Fire Brigades Union tweeted: “Theresa May knighted Gavin Barwell who, as housing secretary, ignored numerous fire safety warnings before Grenfell.”
“Now, Boris Johnson has appointed the deputy leader of the council that held Grenfell residents in contempt to a cushy job in the House of Lords.”
Grenfell survivors and firefighters also criticised the “disgraceful” nomination of a former prominent official at Kensington and Chelsea Council to a peerage. The Grenfell United group claimed Daniel Moylan (who was a Conservative councillor between 1990 and 2018, including 11 years as deputy leader of the local authority between 2000 and 2011) “was at the heart of a culture that held residents in contempt” and shared an image appearing to show him nodding off at a scrutiny meeting several months after the devastating fire which killed 72 people in 2017.
But it gets worse.
There’s now a serious Tory backlash against the appointment of Claire Fox, the “revolutionary” member of the House of Lords being rewarded for her weird and wonderful pursuit of Brexit – and god knows what else. As John Rogan wrote in The Critic (“Who told Boris to make Claire Fox a peer and why?”): ” … when someone – in this case Claire Fox – who is utterly unapologetic about their past controversial beliefs and, indeed, confirms that they still hold to them, is ennobled by a Prime Minister who shares neither her past fondness for the IRA’s “struggle” nor her current Lockdown scepticism, well, then something very curious has happened. And almost certainly is going to go on happening until it explodes.”
David Aaronovitch is less complimentary in The Times (“Boris Johnson’s peers disgrace the House of Lords”). Aaronovitch points out the hypocrisy of castigating Jeremy Corbyn’s tacit support for Irish liberation whilst appointing Fox, who he reminds us was part of a group who were apologists for the IRA murder of Conservative Ian Gow, and who stood for the Brexit Party for a constituency that included Warrington. As Aaronovitch explains: “Last year Ms Fox won a seat as an MEP. The problem was that her constituency, North West England, included the town of Warrington. In 1993 the liberation warriors of the IRA had exploded a bomb in the town centre killing two young boys, Tim Parry and Johnathan Ball. In the wake of that bombing the Parry family helped to start a peace movement. The RCP’s “response to Warrington” was to support the attack — “we defend the right of the Irish people to take whatever measures are necessary in their struggle for freedom” — and to decry the peace movement. They even attempted to disrupt a commemoration held that month in Hyde Park.
The House of Lords is the apogee of Britain’s Undemocracy, where favours are paid and the dark arts of politics are rewarded.
Johnson and Davidson are as ruthless and opportunistic as each other. Davidson’s departure for the Lords is not the aberration of a principled democrat but the continuity of an opportunist. Her wildly over-promoted career was characterised by a lack of scrutiny, and that will be continued in the upper chamber. The Lords may act as a crucial repository for the chumocracy but it’s a malignant stain on democracy and membership of it is a poisoned chalice. Anyone who enters there gives up credibility in doing so and forfeits the right to be taken seriously in politics. Britain as a hereditary ruin is in its endgame, with the monarchy staggering along beside its discredited semi-feudal institutions. The youth and vigor of Ross and the bluff confidence of Davidson – with her media free-pass – can’t offset the stench of decay as we veer towards the calamity of No Deal Brexit and the Charnel House of Johnson’s Covid Nation. The Union is in terminal decline and the arrival of the fresh-faced Ross will do nothing to avert it. Davidson’s USP used to be that she was different: blue collar, ordinary, likeable. Now she’s exposed as just another Tory grifter, on the make and on the payroll.


Comments (12)

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  1. Richard Easson says:

    Vermine in ermine. Too strong? There are some in the Lords I could admire as individuals (except they accepted the invitation) but is it really worth the deaths of all those stoats to ennoble some weasils?

  2. Dougie Harrison says:

    Thank you Mike. A salutary reminder that for all its weaknesses, the SNP remains the only major political force on these islands which refuses to allow its members to accept a place in the House of Lords.

    1. SleepingDog says:

      @Dougie Harrison, however the SNP takes a seat on the ultra-anti-democratic UK Privy Council, which is arguably even worse than the Lords, and more closely involved in imperialist moral crimes.

  3. Robbie says:

    Great description Richard ,and by no means to strong, glad you are back Mike missed Bella .when we get independence those in Scotland who hold titles should be asked to give them up or move south of the border.We will have to start Scotland off on the right foot , be a hard working country and fair to its people ,and friendly with the rest of the world a country that will attract people of the same ilk

    1. Charles L. Gallagher says:

      Robbie, we could just do what the Irish did, abolish them in Ireland and they certainly did not pay for their existence in Wastemonster.

  4. john burrows says:

    Baroness Porkpie will now have a new cache with the Pacific Quay sycophants. The absurd face of Johnson’s “democratic” HoL. Be prepared for the onslaught of BS of how she will single handedly bring about the reform of this odious institution “from the inside.” The forelock tuggers at BBC Scotland will be wetting themselves with anticipation. I imagine Sarah Smith will be practicing her curtsies as we speak.

    As for the “fresh faced” part time MP from Moray, I doubt he will he will have any more impact on the electorate in Scotland than his predecessor. His only passion appears to be harassing Romani. As just another remotely controlled “Scottish” branch office leader, you can bet his rent a mouth will be working overtime on the script provided him by Cummings an Co. A script which will require him to defenestrate the very institution he fancies he might front one day.

    How these people can look at themselves in a mirror is beyond me. They are nothing more than shameless opportunists. The very fact there are still Scot’s unionists about just confirms that you can’t reason with stupidity.

  5. Charles L. Gallagher says:

    Mike, everybody is talking this week about the corrupt, inept, and crony stuffed government in Lebanon, yet as you say we have the very same thing here except it is just a little bit more subtle but the veneer is wearing pretty thin and showing signs of ‘past use-by date’.

    1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

      Maybe we’re just an explosion away from Lebanon. We’ve already got the NIMBYs of Durness claiming that their village, at the weekend, was worse than Beruit.

      1. Derek Thomson says:

        What an utterly stupid comment.

        1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:


        2. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

          Don’t you find the comparison, which Charles makes between the government here to that in Lebanon, just as ludicrous that which the NIMBY from Durness made at the weekend between the situation there and that in Beirut?

          I do.

  6. SleepingDog says:

    Presumably Ruth Davidson had to list her lifetime achievements on her form to go with her nomination, along with what are laughably called ‘propriety checks’. I hadn’t realized that such peak satire was to be found on gov.uk:
    but surely the logical implication is that there should be a public right of objection (if not veto, thinking minimal-level democracy) to such House of Lords nominations? And all paperwork should be public?

    Actually, on the Honesty principle, I was thinking today that Boris Johnston should declare that he wrote a favourable biography of Churchill every time he criticizes Churchill critics. It is an open and shut case of conflict of interest.

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