IT’S not just the pious, holier-than-though sanctimony of Tony Blair which continues to bring politics into disrepute; it was his totally insensitive language when he said Remain supporters are “the insurgents now” as he suggested that the EU referendum result could still be overturned.
For the ex-Prime Minister’s benefit, this is not a rerun of the Afghanistan and Iraq occupations. It’s about Britain’s political establishment accepting the will of the people after the electorate voted – rightly or wrongly – to leave the European Union on June 23.
At a time when both Remain and Leave supporters need to be working together in the national interest, and formulating the best possible trade and economic deal for the whole country, Mr Blair’s desire for all options to be kept open, in case Theresa May’s negotiations don’t meet his own personal wishes, speaks volumes about his low regard for the current PM and the electorate’s judgement on June 23.
If Mr Blair had done more to stand up for UK interests, rather than portraying himself as some kind of messianic-like saviour of the EU, Britain might – just – have opted to stay in the EU. The former Labour leader’s call for like-minded Remain acolytes to argue, debate and persuade people to defy Brexit does his tarnished reputation no favours whatsoever.
One final point needs to be made. During a radio interview, Mr Blair made mention of the fact that he had met French president Francois Hollande on Thursday to discuss Brexit. It clearly needs pointing out that he is no longer Prime Minister, thankfully, and such interference will only undermine Mrs May’s attempts to secure the best deal of Britain. Perhaps a vow of silence is required.
Road to nowhere
WHERE does the money go? UK motorists, already the most taxed in Europe, have every right to ask this after a report revealed the truly shocking state of the country’s roads. There is now such a backlog of repairs, including potholes, that it will cost £11.8bn – and take 14 years – to bring surfaces up to scratch.
Even though the Government has set aside £6bn for local councils to spend on improvements, do not be fooled by the size of this sum – it is for the duration of the whole Parliament and won’t keep pace with the deteriorating quality of surfaces because of record traffic levels. And there’s another point; town hall finances are so stretched that this money has, and will, be diverted to more pressing priorities.
What is the way forward? It’s very difficult for Ministers to tell councils what to do when the Government is pressing ahead with regional devolution. However, there’s a case for a greater proportion of the various vehicle and fuel taxes paid by motorists to be ring-fenced so more money can be made available for the most urgent repairs.
Unless this false economy is stopped, the final repair bill will become even greater – and keep growing just like the rush-hour traffic jam – because successive governments failed to recognise that it is the country’s crumbling roads which are supposed to keep the wheels of the economy turning on a daily basis.
TWO weeks after The Yorkshire Post first lifted the lid on the latest mismanagement at the beleaguered Rural Payments Agency, concerns about the latest payment of farm subsidies have now been exposed by the National Audit Office and now Caroline Flint, a prominent member of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, intends to ask challenging questions next week.
This is important on three counts. First this is public money – and the Parliamentary select committees still set an exemplary example when it comes to holding officialdom to account. Second, farmers are not just custodians of our land – they’re food producers at a time when Britain can, and should, be more self-sufficient. Third, it will fall to the RPA, an organisation rarely ‘fit for purpose’ over the past decade, to devise – and implement – a new system of subsidies when Britain leaves the EU.
That it is so dysfunctional that a new online system of payment had to be ditched in favour of the paper-based model that it replaced after £200m of payments were delayed by blunders does not bode well for the future. Questions have to be asked. And, if the answers are unsatisfactory and the next tranche of performance targets missed, the top Ministers and civil servants responsible will be expected by farmers to resign – and with very good reason.