GIVEN THe Queen’s reputation for discretion, the precise context of Her Majesty’s remarks to the new Scottish Parliament – she highlighted the difficulty of remaining “calm and collected” in what is an “increasingly complex and demanding world” – are not known for certain.
It might have been a nod to the Scottish Nationalists who are posturing for a post-Brexit referendum on independence. Alternatively. the Queen might have been referring to the tumult at Westminster which has engulfed the Tory and Labour parties after Britain voted to leave the European Union.
Either way, it is a timely reminder that the increasingly bad-tempered leadership campaigns will only make it more difficult for the country’s political elite to forge this country’s future outside of the EU – both parties need to halt the self-interest and backstabbing.
In this regard, it would probably be remiss of the Tories to foreshorten their leadership contest if Home Secretary Theresa May wins tomorrow’s first round of voting by a wide margin. Changing the rules will not only alienate party activists, but make it harder for the winning candidate to command the country’s confidence. Equally, Tony Blair is wrong to suggest that the will of the people might change at some point in the future – the electorate will not forgive any leader who sought to defy the June 23 referendum result and this comment shows the extent to which the former PM is divorced from mainstream public opinion.
However, Mr Blair is right on one point – senior politicians do need to be touring every European capital to test the water and see what concessions might be possible before formulating a Brexit plan that is in the “national interest”. The need for statesmanship and diplomacy, two political commodities in short supply, has never been greater.
Yet it should not end here. Current and prospective leaders also need to be touring the North, which backed the country’s EU exit in significant numbers, to find out how the whole country can start pulling together in the same direction.
After all, this state of flux has come about because too many politicians believed that London, largely pro-EU, was emblematic of the mood across the UK. They could not have been more mistaken.
IF MICHAEL Gove is to make the final shortlist for the Tory leadership, he needs not only to win over a fractious party who feel betrayed by the treacherous manner in which he scuppered Boris Johnson’s candidature, but also those who do not remember his stint as Education Secretary with fondness.
A divisive Minister whose bombastic and meddlesome approach to policy-making destroyed the morale of the teaching profession, the very people who hold one of the keys to this country’s future properity, Mr Gove was also the Minister who paved the way for the imposition of fines if parents took their children on holiday during term-time.
Even though this policy was driven by the sincerest of intentions, namely the need to reduce absenteeism as part of a concerted effort to drive up academic standards, Mr Gove’s dogmatic approach failed to pay proper heed to those families who are doing their very best in challenging financial circumstances but can’t afford inflated holiday prices.
It’s the same with childcare. Despite the Conservatives making all sorts of promises since 2010, newly-published research reveals that three-quarters of working parents face the prospect of taking a separate break from their partner this summer simply because childcare costs are so extortionate. Inevitably Brexit will be the defining issue of a campaign which will determine Britain’s next prime minister, but each candidate also has a duty to set out a vision that tackles aspirational issues like childcare and school holidays which are causing genuine concern to all those families living outside the Westminster bubble.
IF the Met Office’s £96m super-computer is so fallible – it predicted a warmer than average summer – is it any wonder that it wants thousands of amateur weather watchers to install miniature meteorological stations in their gardens in order to improve the accuracy of forecasts? They couldn’t do a worse job. Unfortunately it doesn’t mean that the country will get the weather that it wants. As Mark Twain once observed: “In the spring, I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours.” In other words, the long-range outlook will still be as uncertain as ever.