Sorry President Obama, but mind your own business with regard to our EU vote

Chris Moncrieff
Chris Moncrieff

I cannot remember a visit to Britain by a US president being so fraught with controversy – and sometimes even bad temper – as the one just completed by Barack Obama.

There was the usual, gushing crop of pleasantries, but this time it was interlaced by Obama shamelessly intervening in the argument over the forthcoming EU referendum.

I always thought it was a principle among politicians – those that have any principles at all – that you did not meddle in another country’s domestic elections or referendums, and certainly not take sides as blatantly as Obama has done.

Was he simply doing the bidding of the Prime Minister, a fervent Remain campaigner? Or, more likely, was he merely expressing what he believes to be America’s best interests in this matter?

He certainly raised the temperature of what Brexit supporters call ‘Project Fear’ by saying that if Britain left the EU, we would go to the back of the queue in reaching a trade agreement with the US, which may take 10 years to achieve. Boris Johnson has denounced the president as ‘ridiculous and weird’.

Admittedly, David Cameron has intervened in the US presidential battle by saying rude things about Donald Trump (which will not cause the property billionaire to bat an eyelid), but that is no excuse for Obama to follow suit.

I do not wish to be patronising, but Obama should really mind his own business.

Are the Liberal Democrats, like the dodo, about to become extinct?

All signs point to the fact that the future of this once-lively offshoot of the great Liberal Party of Gladstone, is now over.

Their catastrophic performance at the last general election has made them not simply irrelevant, but impotent as well. Tim Farron, the newish leader, tries his best to make their voice heard. But nobody listens, and nobody cares.

The former leader Nick Clegg says that his decision to go into coalition with the Tories in 2010 was a mark of their duty to the nation. But it also meant the virtual destruction of his party.

Many of its members are to the left of even many Labour MPs and the idea of them getting into bed with the Conservatives was simply anathema to them.

Clegg was one of the eight who managed to retain their seats last May. He is now delivering speeches around the world, while many of his ex-colleagues are writing kiss-and-tell books and cashing in on their not very distinguished years in power as coalitionists.

Gladstone’s grave must be erupting with shock at this spectacle of these pathetic has-beens now seemingly doomed to oblivion.

The one decent leader they have had in recent years has been the late Charles Kennedy, who was ousted by a disgraceful smear campaign.

So they have no one to blame but themselves. And few people will shed a tear as they prepare for the possibility of vanishing into thin air.

And so, barring a last-minute change of heart, thousands of junior doctors are again walking out this week. This will lead to nearly 113,000 hospital appointments and 12,500 operations being cancelled or postponed.

And the doctors say no one’s life will be at risk because of this action. How do they know?

I am aware of people who have already had to wait long enough for what the medical staff regard as important examinations being told now, because of the strike, that they will have to wait a further three months.

How can the junior doctors, given examples like this which must be multiplied a hundredfold across the system, be so sure that no patients will be at risk?

The short answer is, they can’t. And, what’s more, strike action is a betrayal of the Hippocratic Oath. Being a doctor is not just a job – it is, or should be, a vocation.

There is, at the time of writing, a gleam of hope, an Opposition suggestion that the contract, the source of the trouble, which is to be imposed on the doctors by the Government, should be phased in via a pilot scheme.

The doctors say they might call off their action if this was agreed. But the Government are insisting that phasing in the contract was their plan all along.

So, what are the doctors whingeing about?

Labour has refused to allow McDonald’s to have a stand at their annual conference in Liverpool in September.

Yet, offshore financial centres such as Gibraltar, Jersey and Guernsey will be allowed to take exhibition stands there.

If that isn’t a prime example of hypocrisy, I don’t know what is.