Special relationship will suffer if Trump visit is downgraded

Chris Moncrieff
Chris Moncrieff

Bad losers?

I should say so.

The anti-Brexit campaigners still don’t seem to understand that they lost the referendum last June, and seem hell-bent on frustrating the will of the British voting public, probably excusing their antics by calling in aid the title of the late and great Tam Dalyell’s last book, The Importance of Being Awkward.

And as for the hordes who clog up our city streets denouncing Donald Trump, those who now attack him, especially across The Pond, should have worked harder to ensure he was defeated at the election. But they failed.

Trump was legitimately elected President of the United States and is actually doing what he undertook to do during the campaign. People may not like it or him, but to quote a politician’s cliche, “We are where we are”.

Assuming the State Visit goes ahead, it cannot be watered down to transform him into a kind of second-class President. He must be allowed to address Parliament in Westminster Hall and be treated courteously according to his rank. Anything less would be degrading and insulting - and could irreparably damage the UK-US special relationship.

Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, has accused anti-Trump protestors of “staggering over-reaction”. He said: “I cannot recall such demonstrations against terrible and autocratic regimes such as Burma, Sudan and North Korea. It is one of the key characteristics of those who consider themselves progressive to reserve condemnation for America, the West, or Israel, and ignore actual evil-doers.”

Hear, hear.

• Could it be curtains for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on February 23, the date of the two by-elections at Copeland and Stoke-on-Trent Central, both Labour-held?

They are in the so-called Labour heartland, yet bookmakers - as good a guide as any - suspect they could lose both of them.

With Labour in disarray and many Labour MPs defying and openly contemptuous of their leader, Corbyn may well find the pressure on him to stand down overwhelming if Labour fail to win these tests.

Solidarity, in the form of some 50 rebel MPs in the Brexit vote, has come back and hit him on he nose like a boomerang. That may have been just a superficial wound. Copeland and Stoke could be fatal.

• It was plainly not going to be long before a book, claiming to be a biography of Theresa May, hit the shops. And so it has happened. Needless to say it “uncovers” dastardly deeds and dirty tricks in the Conservative Party. It is claimed ex-Chancellor George Osborne wanted May sacked as Home Secretary. May, once in Downing Street, made short work of him, sacking him in 10 minutes flat.

And it reportedly took her only two minutes to get rid of Michael Gove, the ex-Justice Secretary.

Quick work by any standards. It was swift retribution on two politicians who should have known better.

• It is bordering on the miraculous that thousands of British rail passengers have not reacted with violence over the prolonged misery, frustration and downright fury they have suffered at the hands of the rail industry over the past few weeks.

Travellers on Southern in particular have paid huge fares for no trains at all over this period, and if one has come along it has been packed more solidly than a cattle truck.

A powerful Commons committee, not before time, has has now blasted the Government for its franchising system and called for an inquiry and overhaul of the system, which is a disgrace.

Now you have the hugely unusual, if not unique situation, of trade unions at war with each other, sky-high fares and a ticketing regime more complicated than Hampton Court Maze. A ruinous state of affairs.

Benito Mussolini, the hugely unpleasant wartime dictator of Italy, had one good point. He apparently made the trains run on time.

We do not want another Mussolini here, but we could certainly do with someone who could sort out the railways.

• I have known a few Commons Speakers in my day, but I cannot recall one who has been the subject of so much prolonged criticism, both inside the Chamber and outside, than the present incumbent, John Bercow. He has brought most of it on himself.

He too often interrupts the normal flow of debate by complaining about the noise. He does not seem to realise that for people with strong views - like most MPs - it is instinctive for them to express those views with a”hear hear” or some negative comment when they disagree after something controversial is uttered.

But more important than that, the Speaker is there in part to ensure MPs adhere to the parliamentary rules, many of which can be traced back to the mists of antiquity.

For instance, one day last week, Tory MP Chloe Smith brought a baby into the Chamber. The Speaker told her not to be sheepish and that the baby was very welcome in the chamber. A clear breach of the strict convention that only MPs can sit in the Chamber while a debate is going on.

And in the same week, Bercow pointed up at the public, or strangers’ gallery, and uttered welcoming remarks to some high-ranking Burmese officials who were sitting there.

But the rules and conventions clearly state that as far as MPs are concerned, none of the galleries in the chamber actually exist - so it is a breach of the rules or conventions to draw attention to them.

Trivial you may think, but these are rules and conventions that form part of what is probably the most envied legislative chamber in the world. And until they are abolished - and I see no desire for that - they should be adhered to, especially by the Speaker of all people.

• Whatever faults he may possess, at least John Bercow is able to joke about his diminutive size.

He recently told an audience: “I am not the shortest person to occupy this office. There have been three previous Speakers who were shorter than me - they were all beheaded.”

Boom! Boom!