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Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Cambridge Analytica - Phone Hacking Take 2

How serious is the whole Cambridge Analytica story? Many will be asking this question already for one reason - hardly had that story seen the light of day, than the spin started. It was a “non-story”. Barack Obama’s campaign had done the same thing. If it had been the Rotten Lefties (tm) doing it, they wouldn’t be kicking off now. No-one really understood this data business anyway. And they hadn’t really done all those bad things, honestly.
At this point, those who remember the moment that Nick Davies first opened the Pandora’s Box that was the phone hacking scandal back in 2009 may be experiencing a sense of déjà vu: we have been here before, and the spin we are seeing over CA is of the same kind as that deployed then. Moreover, we know now that phone hacking was not a “non-story”. Nor is CA. And the latest events in this saga show why.
Harold Wilson memorably said that a week is a long time in politics. Now, the CA saga makes 24 hours seem yet longer. Let’s start with the WaPo telling “Cambridge Analytica, data consultant for Trump campaign and others, suspends CEO amid federal probe of its use of Facebook data”. Alexander Nix had been suspended. Or had he?
Carole Cadwalladr of the Observer wasn’t buying that one. “UPDATE: An ex-employee source points out ‘Cambridge Analytica is a legal fiction. Alexander Nix has been suspended from NOTHING.’ This is a very good point. More to follow”. She was right.
Wendy Siegelman confirmed it. “UPDATE: Emerdata Ltd created by SCL/Cambridge Analytica's Julian Wheatland, with Erik Prince's business partner Chun Shun Ko appointed director Jan '17 - just added Rebekah Mercer & Jennifer Mercer as directors, along w/Alexander Nix”. Keep your eyes on the ball, everyone.
The problem, though, was once again picked up on by Ms Cadwalladr. “Journalists! There's a whole new rat's nest right here ... New Mercer-backed venture with Cambridge Analytica's newly-defenestrated Alexander Nix”. And the problem? Far too many journalists are in hock to organisations in whose interest it is not to talk about this scandal.
Anyone doubting that should refer back to yesterday’s spin. Oh hello, what’s this? “Emerdata Ltd has not registered as a data controller in the Uk. which makes you wonder what it's actually doing here”. That needs watching. But most papers won’t go there.
And how devious is the whole exercise? Ed Krassenstein had that one figured out. “Alexander Nix and the Mercers have created a new data company, EMERDATA LIMITED. Just yesterday Jennifer and Rebekah Mercer were named directors. The address on the business is identical to SCL Group (Cambridge Analytica). Don't let them get away with this!” Same address. But too many in the UK will let them get away with it.
Yet all good journalists should be on the case, if only because of the sheer nastiness of intent, as Kyle Griffin of MSNBC pointed out. “An email written by one of Cambridge Analytica's employees to a pro-Trump super PAC indicates that Cambridge hoped to capitalize on the Russian hacking of Hillary Clinton and her ally, The Daily Beast reports”.
So why are so many not going to follow up this story? Here’s Ross Colquhoun with a little taster. “Here's a photograph of the Chairman of the board of SCL Group, which The Times and The Guardian have reported as being the 'parent company' of Cambridge Analytica, campaigning alongside former Tory leader David Cameron”.
Remember him?

That’s the same David Cameron who took Andy Coulson into Downing Street, despite being told he should have steered well clear. What did I say about phone hacking coming round again? Well, phone hacking really has come round again.
Yes, it's not just about them

And what will happen this time is that, as with phone hacking, it will be a small group of independently minded journalists slowly but determinedly prising the lid off the worm can, while most of our free and fearless press sits on its hands and pretends it’s not happening.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. The media establishment was a disgrace then, and it’s a disgrace now. Another read-and-weep moment.

Uber Lied - But Were Taken On Trust

The idea of “light touch” regulation of London’s taxi and private hire operators, which I noted recently, came right from the top. We know this as TfL’s former director John Mason has made this plain in response to that post. So when Uber’s management flat-out lied to him - more than once - and also indulged in the kind of dirty tricks which should have seen them barred from the capital, they were instead given the benefit of the doubt.
Mason has gone on record to state “They wanted my view as to whether lots of additional regulation was needed as the view in the USA was that it was. At the time … I don’t think TFL or Mayor felt that it was. This was at time of Tory Mayor and desire to cut red tape. It is irrelevant whether I agree or not”. Fair comment. And there was more.
Unfortunately many think that this was some invite to Uber to not comply. That is simply not the case. It was a presentation that said, at that time, we (TfL, Mayor, [Government]) didn’t think more regulation was needed on stuff like mobile phone use”. The result of that mindset - from well above Mason’s level - we can now see.
We start with a request from Mason to Ryan Graves and Travis Kalanick of Uber: “When we spoke recently you said you would forward some details of the service that is operating in some cities over there as [a] Taxi//PH service without licensed vehicles or drivers but getting a ‘donation’ and they were planning to come to London. Do you have that information please?” Kalanick replied personally.
The company’s name is Lyft”. That is dirty tricks of the crudest kind - trying to hobble a competitor before they even arrived on the scene in London.

It got worse: Kalanick then asserted, in the same email, “In case there is any confusion, every single UberX driver/car in London is licensed by the TfL per TfL rules and regs”. That may have been true, but what they were doing when working for Uber was not within the rules and regulations, and it’s most likely Kalanick either knew, or just didn’t care. That is so misleading as to be dishonest.
Then came a report from a driver who had been subcontracted to cover Uber’s opening month in London. The illegality leapt off the page: “the system is there so we do not have to provide a controller-based work or pre-booked work, our system is on demand only, customer demand a car using the App, driver accept the job” [my emphases].
There was more. “I covered about 20 days work for UBER through another company, at no time did I receive a job with the destination, driver can only see passenger name and pick up address on map … the App works pretty much like the black cabs App and with UBER, passenger can effectively hail a cab … as passenger can see on the App how many cars [are] available near by”. So Mason went back to Ryan Graves.
When we discussed, you provided me with assurances that all jobs would be recorded appropriately in in line with the regulations and legislation. I find the comments made to this driver at Kings Cross at odds slightly with what we discussed”.

Ryan Graves replied “I can’t speak to the source of the quote below, but what I can assure you is that our records and application are pursuant to the TfL regulations”.
That is a flat-out lie. We know this as the following year, TfL’s Cliff Llewellyn, chasing up the Private Hire operators’ complaint made via Clifford, Chance, showed exactly where and how Uber was breaking the law, and had presumably been doing since Day One.

Mason took Graves on trust, even apologising for troubling him: “Sorry, just get all this crap thrown at us and this clarifies”. And there was one more detail that got missed.

Before Uber even got started in London, Graves said this in an email to Mason: “I’ve got a few questions about the licensing process for a PHV operator’s licence as it pertains to a company that will not actually own or operate vehicles, but will act in the payment processing realm”. That is the Uber London versus Uber BV problem. Which was also in breach of the regulations. And it was missed at the very start.

John Mason took both Ryan Graves and Travis Kalanick on trust. Why he should have done so is the $64,000 question. TfL may not have “invited” Uber not to comply with the law, but Uber was, under Kalanick - the man who said his competition was “An asshole called Taxi” - not a company that needed an invite. If it could get away with it, it did it.
Ultimately, the responsibility for this sorry state of affairs, and the rush to keep Uber on the road in late 2013 and early 2014, lies with the Mayor. And at that time, London had a Mayor for whom taking responsibility was, shall we say, a challenging concept.
So in addition to explaining wasting money on water cannon, the cable car, the Arcelor Mittal Orbit, the vanity buses, and the non-existent Garden Bridge, London’s formerly very occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson needs to explain why he should have let an illegal show like Uber rock up on his patch.

And those shafted by Uber’s wild west show need to keep holding his feet to the fire.

Farage Fish Farce Flops

Nothing, but nothing, better illustrates the level to which the Brexit debate has sunk than the charade played out this morning on the River Thames opposite the Palace of Westminster, where a group of Europhobic idiots - one has to stop short of favouring them with the title of “Politicians” - rocked up in a fishing boat and proceeded to throw dead fish overboard, rather than themselves, which would have undoubtedly been more popular.
Squeaky Whale Oil finger up the bum time

This alleged protest at Theresa May’s latest series of abject capitulations to the EU side on how the transition period will play out did not get off to the best of starts: the Honourable Member for times long past Jacob Rees Mogg was unable to board the boat. But the likes of Nigel “Thirsty” Farage, still drawing his MEP’s salary and accruing his pension while distancing himself from the UKIP shit-show, were raring to go.
And so it came to pass that Farage, who turned up to just one fisheries committee meeting at the European Parliament out of 42, became the centre of a yet More And Bigger Self-Promotion Opportunity For Himself Personally Now, ostentatiously chucking fish into the river while no-one on board, or in the watching media, thought to check if anyone in Parliament was even bothering to look out the window at the non-spectacle.
There was a brief moment of levity, with Niall Paterson of Sky News musing “Nigel Farage is basically forcibly repatriating fish, isn’t he?” But his colleague Faisal Islam reminded us all that the hardcore Europhobes are once again attempting to be the tail that wags the dog: “Rees Mogg, @RossThomson_MP @bernardjenkin and 11 other mainly Tory ERG coastal MPs write to PM re fishing saying draft Withdrawal Agreement ‘would be rejected by Commons’ & UK ‘must not remain party to CFP during proposed implementation period’”. But they won’t dare bring down Theresa May, and she knows it.
What this group of clowns also knows full well is that fisheries account for just 0.3% of the total UK economy. If the UK does not secure the transition period deal, rather more than that will be on its way to mainland Europe and we will be even more screwed than we are anyway. Not that Farage and Rees Mogg care - They’re All Right Jack.
Instead, hacks treated the charade seriously, while it was left to Emma Kennedy to ask what should have been asked of Mr Thirsty and his pals: “I wonder if a single journalist interviewing @Nigel_Farage today is going to ask him why he failed to turn up 42 times to the Fishing Commission he was supposed to be part of as his job as MEP. So far: nil”.
And while the hacks deferred to the politicians, observers did not. Gary Lineker, guaranteeing himself more hatred from our free and fearless press, suggested “Rarely have 2 such slimey, smelly, slippery creatures held on to some fish”. And Niall Paterson responded honestly to someone mentioning the Monty Python fish dance “In all honesty, is this any less farcical than what’s currently happening on the Thames?
Another crappy publicity stunt, another show of obedience by too much of the media. Meanwhile, that same media is telling anyone who will listen that they should not, under any circumstances, look at the Cambridge Analytica scandal. No change there, then.

The Sun’s Facebook Giveaway

As I noted yesterday, the spin is already being applied to the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook ruckus, with both the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog, and his pal Mark Wallace at Conservative Home, desperately playing down the significance of the revelation on data breaches and dirty tricks. And as the Murdoch goons at the Super Soaraway Currant Bun have shown, this is no mere coincidence.
Simple choice, Tone - do as you're told, or your P45

The old adage that if one wants to know what Rupert Murdoch really thinks, one should read a Sun editorial, should be borne in mind when reading today’s crude deflection attempt - to which Liam O’Hare has helpfully provided an explainer.

Here’s the Sun, pretending there is nothing to see here, honestly: “THE Facebook data scandal is being wildly exaggerated for political ends … Those most excited wouldn’t give a damn had it not supposedly helped Donald Trump into power. Some even farcically claim it turned the Brexit vote … They blamed ‘racism’, Boris’s bus, The Sun and other Brexit-backing papers. Now it was down to ‘data-harvesting’ … Will they ever accept that 52 per cent of voters simply disagreed with them?
Quite apart from the dead giveaway - there is no direct evidence of Brexit vote abuse out there (yet) - that, together with the equally crude photo caption under the image of Combover Crybaby Donald Trump, “Lefties pedalling the conspiracy that Cambridge Analytica helped Trump get into power wouldn't have cared if he had lost for the same reason”, is there for one reason, and that’s to defend the Establishment.

O’Hare gives us some reasons why that might be. “SCL is headed up by Nigel Oakes, another old Etonian, who, according to @Powerbase has links to the British royals and was once rumoured to be an Mi5 spy … Mark Turnbull, who joined Alexander Nix at the secretly filmed meetings, heads up both SCL Elections as well as Cambridge Analytica Political Global. He was at Bell Pottinger for 18 years including leading the production of Pentagon funded fake al-Qaeda videos”. And there is more.
The President of SCL is Sir Geoffrey Pattie. He is a former vice chairman of the Tory party, and served in Thatcher's cabinet, including as defence minister. Another of SCL's directors is the millionare and former British special forces officer in Borneo and Kenya, Roger Gabb. In 2006 he donated £500,000 to the Conservative party. Gabb was fined by the Electoral Commission for failing to declare his funding for adverts campaigning for a Leave vote in the Brexit referendum”. Plus there are more of those Tory Party links.
[SCL’s] chairman is venture capitalist Julian Wheatland. He also happens to be chairman of Oxfordshire Conservatives Association. The organisation has also been funded by Jonathan Marland, a former Conservative Party Treasurer, a trade envoy under David Cameron, and a close friend of Tory election strategist Lynton Crosby. Meanwhile, property tycoon and Conservative party donor Vincent Tchenguiz was also the single largest SCL shareholder for a decade”. The Establishment is in this up to its neck.

Also, the Trump gang is in the firing line. And Cambridge Analytica head man Robert Mercer is a close friend of Murdoch. This “perfect storm” of vulnerability is why Sun editor Tony Gallagher has had his instructions, whatever his journalistic instincts might tell him. As Colonel Ross told Harry Palmer, “That’s what you’re paid for, isn’t it?

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Commons Mauling Awaits Facebook

Anyone who thought that having a Tory MP chairing the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee would mean it went a little easier on the media were disabused of that notion today when current incumbent Damian Collins informed Facebook’s top table that he and his fellow MPs would like them to pop round to Portcullis House for a chat.
Damian Collins MP

Collins has worked in the PR and communications industry himself. And although the formidable presence of Tom Watson is no longer part of the panel that the Facebook folks will face, there is still longstanding member Paul Farrelly, along with City of Chester MP Chris Mathieson, who will be more than pleased to see them.

So who would the MPs like to see? Collins has answered that one by telling “I have today written to @facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg calling on him to give oral evidence to @CommonsCMS following recent reports in @guardian and @nytimes”. And the contents of his letter to Zuck should put the proverbial fear of God into him.
The Committee has repeatedly asked Facebook about how companies acquire and hold on to user data from their site, and in particular about whether data had been taken without their consent. Your officials’ answers have consistently understated this risk, and have been misleading to the Committee [he means they lied] … It is now time to hear from a senior Facebook executive with the sufficient authority to give an accurate account of this catastrophic failure of process”. And who might that senior executive be?
We are sure you will understand the need for a representative from right at the top of the organisation to address concerns. Given your commitment at the start of the New Year to ‘fixing’ Facebook, I hope that this representative will be you”. WALLOP!
And, just to ensure all concerned know that Collins means business, he has also told “I am also pleased to announce that @CommonsCMS will be taking evidence from former Facebook operations manager Sandy Parakilas tomorrow by video link, at 3pm in the Grimond Room, Portcullis House. This will be available to watch live at http://parliamentlive.tv”. The great Liberal leader might just have approved.
Looks like it wasn't just this lot benefiting

What might await Zuckerberg can be gleaned from a Guardian piece about Parakilas, tomorrow’s interviewee. “'Utterly horrifying': ex-Facebook insider says covert data harvesting was routine … Sandy Parakilas says numerous companies deployed these techniques - likely affecting hundreds of millions of users - and that Facebook looked the other way”. Plus the Commons is not the only body wanting a little chat.

We know this as Guy Verhofstadt has declared “When is Mark Zuckerberg going to explain what happened with our data? The data breach is an absolute scandal. The European Parliament must start an investigation. I will keep you updated about our progress”. So Zuck might as well add Brussels and Strasbourg to his itinerary.
And a word of warning: if Zuckerberg, or anyone else from Facebook, thinks that just rocking up and spewing corporate bullshit is going to get him through his grilling, he has another think coming. He tries that, he’ll be torn to shreds.

What was that about this being a “non-story”? And there’s lots more to come.

Cambridge Analytica - Now The Spin

After the revelations over the weekend in the Observer, and yesterday’s exposé of data mining specialists Cambridge Analytica by Channel 4 News, has come the very deliberate, and all too predictable, pushback. This was begun last night with the disgraceful complicity of the BBC as CA’s head man Alexander Nix was allowed to spin for his supper in an interview recorded before either he or the Beeb knew what Channel 4 would be running.
Nix blustered “I think that their undercover sting was intended to embarrass us … by presenting a mischaracterisation of the facts”, whereas what Channel 4 News demonstrated was that he had proposed a dirty tricks campaign in order to discredit election opponents. There was bugger all mischaracterisation of those facts possible, and so both Nix and BBC Newsnight fell at the first hurdle.

But those who wanted to wade in with the damage limitation had not even got started, as a supremely arrogant pile of bluster by Mark Wallace at Conservative Home has demonstrated. Here, he explains why nobody really understands what it’s about, how Carole Cadwalladr got it wrong, and how everybody he wants to discredit is “bullshitting”.

Nothing, he stresses, is improper about use of data for micro-targeting. Leave EU is dismissed as “the clown car project of Arron Banks”, any connection between them and Vote Leave dismissed as they were “two campaigns that loathed each other”, any work for the Trump campaign wasn’t really important because, well, Ted Cruz, and remember, folks, that the rotten leftie Guardian is BULLSHITTING!

And I believe that like I didn’t believe any of Wallace’s crap from his days at the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance, another repository of deliberate spin and misinformation. Nor should anyone believe the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog, who said nothing about CA - until this morning.
The Great Guido has entered the fray in classic spin mode - give a little away in order to divert attention. Under the headline “Cambridge Analytica Boss Considers Resigning”, readers are told “Cambridge Analytica’s poundshop Bond villain and bullsh*tter extraordinaire Alexander Nix says he is considering resigning after he was filmed telling an undercover reporter he could entrap politicians with Ukrainian prostitutes”.

Hey, someone else is BULLSHITTING! And there’s more. “Nix tells the Times: ‘If that is going to help the company that is the right thing to happen’. It seems he was making all this up to land a client and his comical exaggerations could see him having to quit over something he hasn’t actually done”. IT WAS ONLY A BIT OF FUN! So why is the Information Commission going in to CA right now, backed by a court order?

He didn’t do what Channel 4 News showed him actually doing. He made up something that he clearly pitched in order to land a client. Let’s not drive this one round the houses any longer - the only bullshitting being done here is by the likes of Wallace and his pals at the Fawkes blog (Wal and Staines are buddies going back several years).

Give it up, lads. This story has a long way to run, there is more coming down the track, and you’re just making yourselves look stupid. So no change there, then.

UKIP - Two Weeks And It’s Dead

As Zelo Street regulars will know, the motley convocation of saloon bar propper-uppers otherwise known as UKIP has been on shaky financial ground for some time now. The European Parliament money that so many of its MEPs creatively diverted to their own advantage has dried up, the membership is shrinking fast, and becoming embroiled in Jane Collins’ libel loss has the potential to finish the party off.
Now it is no longer a mere potential: Mr Justice Warby has ordered that UKIP must pay its share of the libel costs “accrued between March 2015 and June 2015, and costs from the assessment hearing”. These have been estimated at £175,000. And that money must be stumped up within the next fourteen days - unless the party appeals.

The problem there is that mounting an appeal will most likely end up just adding a bit more to the bill the Kippers already face. And, as the Guardian has put it with some measure of understatement, “The party’s finances are thought to be in a perilous condition”. The BBC has explainedThe interim payment order comes days after the party's leader, Gerard Batten, issued a plea for cash for the party, saying £100,000 must be raised by the end of March”. That, I understand, is in addition to the £175,000 in costs.

Who is to blame for this mess? As with most of UKIP’s misfortunes, the problem is entirely self-inflicted. The libel action could, and should, have been settled far earlier, but those in charge deliberately delayed settling for political advantage. This has been confirmed in a statement on behalf of the three Labour MPs who Ms Collins libelled.

Ukip used the unfounded allegations by Jane Collins for political advantage. At the highest level Ukip knew Jane Collins’ case was ‘hopeless’ but blocked any settlement in our favour before the 2015 general election because they believed it would win them votes”. Settlement could have been had for a fraction of the bill now faced by UKIP and Ms Collins (the total bill is now around £600,000). It’s their own fault.

The Kippers may not even be able to field candidates in upcoming local elections. The Guardian again: “Nominations to stand in local elections close on 6 April. The law is not clear whether a party facing insolvency is allowed to put forward candidates, and many former Ukip councillors have either returned to one of the main parties or have become independents. It will lose its MEPs in 2019, after the UK leaves the EU. If it fails to contest English local elections, Ukip will be reduced to a rump of six Welsh assembly members”.
Even former UKIP Oberscheissenführer Nigel “Thirsty” Farage doesn’t hold out much hope, as Sky News has told. “The truth is UKIP is facing a real, real battle just to survive” he told his LBC audience. But as one source also told, “UKIP has no money and the idiots who got UKIP into this mess take no responsibility”. Those “idiots” include Farage, who won’t be taking any responsibility at all. Because Nige wants to be where the money is at, and that certainly isn’t UKIP. So he won’t hang around to help.

This time, it really does look like the end. Just rejoice at that news.

Monday, 19 March 2018

UKIP Endorses Far Right AGAIN

After Stephen Yaxley Lennon, who styles himself Tommy Robinson, gave a speech written by Martin Sellner, an Austrian far-right activist who had been declared persona non grata by the UK authorities, at Speaker’s Corner yesterday to a gathering measured in hundreds and not thousands, few stopped to ask what that speech actually contained. Nor did some of those who had already decided to endorse its contents.
I em not a racialist, but, und zis is a big but ...

Well, here’s a flavour. “I’m going to tell you something nobody has told you before. It’s the biggest, most obvious secret of our media our politicians and our powerholders: People of Britain, you are being replaced … You are being replaced by massive Muslim immigration … You see it everywhere: in London, in Manchester, but also already in the little countryside towns. A big replacement is going on”. And there was more.
All across Europe, there is a shadow hanging over our heads. The French are whispering about in the Metro, the Germans murmuring about it when they feel unwatched, Italians look left and right, and if nobody is listening they tell you: ‘I don’t feel at home anymore in my street. We are becoming foreigners in our own country.’ And again and again I hear: ‘We are not allowed to talk about it.’ And that’s the bizarre drama of the ‘Strange death of Europe’. We are being replaced, conquered by radical Islam, and we are not allowed to talk about it”. This is Nazi-style bullshit. And he wasn’t finished.
In front of our very eyes this country is becoming a tyranny, shutting all debates about immigration down, until demographics solves the issue by replacement … The will and the life of the British nation is not broken … You are the livley tradition of your nation, saving its face before history … Remember your glorious past, you are sons and daughters of knights, kings, explorers, philosophers and artists”. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

The “you are being silenced” and “we are not allowed to talk about it” are straight out of the Nazi playbook; in the late 1920s, Hitler was pictured with his mouth taped up, the claim being he was being prevented from speaking. He wasn’t. It’s the same untruth now.
The “Great Replacement” theory is a far-right staple. And it’s complete crap: at the last major census in 2011, Muslims accounted for 4.4% of the UK’s population. Just 5.5% of Germans have Islam as their religion. In Sellner’s native Austria, the figure is 7%. The idea that population replacement is in progress is nonsense. So is the claim that anyone is having their freedom of speech curtailed.

The only conclusion has to be that the whole exercise is scaremongering, with Muslims as the target. They are “the other”. In the Third Reich it was Jews. Today it’s Muslims. There has to be an “other” on whom the ills of the world can be conveniently blamed.
So no responsible politicians would go near this ideology … or would they? Sadly, for the convocation of motley saloon bar propper-uppers at UKIP, they would indeed go near it. Lennon was name checked by interim leader Adolf von Batten as “Mr Robinson”; he then confirmed that he had met Lauren Southern at the European Parliament.

UKIP General Secretary Paul Oakley met Lennon after his speech. And the party’s London AM David Kurten went to yesterday’s gathering at Speaker’s Corner. UKIP is fast becoming a single issue party - the issue being Muslim bashing. What a shower.

Rees Mogg Demands Annexation Of Ireland

Once more, Brexit negotiations are stalled, and over an all too predictable sticking point - the Irish border. How does the UK leave the Single Market and Customs Union, yet avoid any kind of hard border with the Republic, which will remain part of both bodies? This subject has attracted the attention of the Member for times long past Jacob Rees Mogg, who appears to have forgotten that Ireland is now a sovereign nation.
Rees Mogg has given an interview to Kevin Schofield of Politics Home, who was formerly with the Murdoch Sun. Here, we get a glimpse of how fearful Theresa May must be of the so-called European Reform Group of Tory MPs, held by many commentators, and indeed some Tory MPs opposed to their stance, as a party within a party, when Schofield notes “Rees-Mogg does not demur when I suggest that he has regular meetings with Theresa May”. He’s a back bencher, not a minister. Think about that.

But it is his attitude to the Irish border question that shows not just that Theresa May’s indulgence is misguided, but also that Rees Mogg’s grasp of realpolitik is not as he might believe. “Theresa May has already made clear that the EU’s backstop suggestion that Northern Ireland remains in the Customs Union as a way of avoiding a hard border is unacceptable to her, and Rees-Mogg unsurprisingly concurs” tells Schofield.

So far, so loyal and routine. But then the mood darkens. “He is less enamoured with her position, set out in her Mansion House speech, that Britain must work with the EU to solve the problem. ‘I think the Prime Minister was being generous to the European Union in that context,’ he says … ‘She wants to have friendly relations in the negotiations, but it’s a question of nuance and I think they’re the stick in the muds in this and have come up with a solution that is wholly impossible for the United Kingdom to accept, that we should take Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom’”. Er, they haven’t.

What the EU negotiators are putting forward is a solution which can be made to work, and by inference suggesting that, if the UK side has a better solution, it should put it forward. And Rees Mogg does have a solution of his own. Sort of.

Why don’t we suggest to them that the Republic of Ireland comes out of the single market and customs union and accepts our regulations? It’s an equally logical suggestion”. Ri-i-i-ight. What exactly happened on the island of Ireland between the end of the Great War and 1922? Would Sir like to hazard a guess on that one?

Telling other countries what to jolly well do is not like admonishing a recalcitrant child, and nor is it going to work. Ireland has been an independent country for almost a Century; the country is an unswervingly pro-EU member state. It has adopted the Euro and the metric system, and would have joined the Schengen area, had it not been for British intransigence. The Dublin Government will not be taking orders from Westminster.

But good to know the mindset of those inhabiting the tail which is wagging the Prime Ministerial dog right now. No wonder the Tories are in such a mess.