Silly season takes a strange twist
I know I keep saying it, but politics is in a stranger state than I can ever remember.
Parties are plagued by internal discord; Trump’s next move could well be to build a wall around the Oval Office - and Brexit is stalled because parliament is off on its summer hols.
What’s really frightening however is how we accept this bizarre state of affairs as normal.
The so-called ‘silly season’ (although no-one calls it that anymore) is the traditional time for quirky off-piste intrigues and controversy. Boris Johnson, recently returned to the back-benches and the Daily Telegraph, has duly obliged.
His now infamous opinion column opposed a bar on the wearing of the veil in some western states while also clumsily deploring its ‘cultural imposition’ upon Muslim women. You can decide for yourself whether this was deliberately provocative or the usual confused libertarian blathering for which the former foreign secretary is renowned.
Even so, it’s illuminating how so many detractors in his own party considered it appropriate to react with shock and outrage at his ‘letter-box’ remark.
There’s no doubt that Downing Street’s fingerprints are all over the little stories emerging about Boris refusing to vacate his grace and favour digs and so forth. Now there’s an investigation into ‘burka-gate’.
Yet the effort going into frustrating the ambitions of a wannabe leadership contender seems misplaced to me.
Like Churchill before him, Johnson is in the political wilderness and it’s one of his own making. The key difference is that he’s clearly not ‘cometh-the-hour-cometh-the-man’ material.
Experience tells us that when the going gets tough, he’d rather hop on a plane to Afghanistan than take a stance over Heathrow expansion plans.
Similarly, no-one needed to scrawl his “screw business” remarks - or words to that effect – on the side of a bus. Many at the helm of large corporations, and that includes big party donors, have first-hand experience of his insensitivity when it comes to the big issues.
I don’t normally do premonitions. I’m a number cruncher by inclination who approaches every potential outcome by applying a healthy margin of error.
Nonetheless, I can’t shake the feeling that Theresa May is going to see off the likes of Boris and get to the end of her journey more or less intact.
What I’m unable to decide is whether that’s necessarily a good thing.
Missing the obvious over a taxing problem
One cabinet member with an outwardly more proactive approach towards business is Chancellor Philip Hammond. He’s spotted that High Street traders are struggling to compete with online retailers.
You’d think a straightforward way of levelling the playing field would be to trim back crippling property-based business rates which are a factor in the decline of numerous retailers, including household names.
Unfortunately, ‘Spreadsheet Phil’ instead has it in mind to introduce a special levy on online businesses like Amazon who have seen their tax bills fall.
He’ll need to get international agreement to do this. No mean task, given the UK government’s proven inability to negotiate its way out of paper bag. There will also be heat from global e-companies who have the lobbying clout where it matters.
Hammond told reporters, “We want to ensure that taxation is fair between those doing business the traditional way and those doing business online”.
Maybe so, but it’s a pity that media coverage didn’t extend to mentioning which government has been responsible for bringing about this unbalanced tax arrangement in the first place. Take a guess.