Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator's Notes

Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator's Notes

Article excerpt

There is a great caterwauling among Conservatives, as James Forsyth reports on the opposite page, at the idea that Tony Blair might become 'President of Europe' if the Lisbon Treaty is ratified. It certainly would confirm the suspicion one has that the Blair 'project' has all along been to create a political order in which British independence, parliamentary sovereignty and Tory culture are forbidden by law and Mr Blair can rule forever without having to bother with being elected. Lord Mandelson's return to British politics after his European spell is surely designed to assist the same scheme. But, from the point of view of the Conservatives, Mr Blair's candidacy would really be excellent news. If they succeeded in blocking it, by indicating to European leaders that a new Tory government would find it very hard to work with Mr Blair, that would show their power. If they failed, they would at last unite their own party against the European bureaucracy. Even the few remaining Eurofanatics in the party would be galvanised to oppose whatever President Tony wanted.

As Evelyn Waugh wrote of the Nazi-Soviet Pact, the enemy would be 'in plain view'.

Everyone suddenly seems to agree that it is perfectly reasonable that ministers who are in the Lords should be allowed to appear to answer questions in the Commons.

Until now, this has been forbidden. The change is advocated in the name of greater accountability. As usual, people are not thinking about why these conventions exist.

Also as usual, we are trying to change the constitution to accommodate the emotional needs of Lord Mandelson of Hartlepool and Foy (see above). There are two Houses of Parliament. So long as that remains the case, members of one answer to their House, and not to the other. Gordon Brown would be offering to Mandelson and others a privilege which until now has been dependent on the popular will. The Commons is not a stage, but an elected body whose Members, in virtue of their election, are all equal. If others can be parachuted in, the power of election is undermined. Mr Brown also implies that a peer is not answerable to Parliament. If that is what he thinks, why does he create them, or, indeed, permit two Houses of Parliament at all? The reason this problem has arisen in the first place is because Mr Brown himself made Mandelson a peer and gave him such important jobs. He should have thought of this difficulty before he did so. I know that Lord Mandelson has a deep yearning to become prime minister, but why should esour constitution be constructed round his appetites, as if he were Henry VIII wanting Anne Boleyn?

The really strange thing about the press conference to launch Pope Benedict's offer of an 'ordinariate' to Anglicans wishing to join the Roman Catholic Church was that the Archbishop of Canterbury attended it.

If he had wished to support the offer as an ecumenical act, that would have made sense.

But he didn't. The offer was unilateral, and Dr Williams, as he half-complained in public, was given very short notice of it. Without consulting his own bishops, he showed up, looking uneasy. I'm afraid Dr Williams is a very bad politician. This may reflect well on his sanctity, but it confirms the sad impression that the Church of England is a body to whom news happens, rather than one which makes news itself. …

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