Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Leaders So Poor the Bicycle Test Is Far beyond Them

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Leaders So Poor the Bicycle Test Is Far beyond Them

Article excerpt


THE politician, barrister and wit, F. E. Smith, first Earl of Birkenhead, said that there was not a single man in the first Labour government, with the possible exception of J. H. Thomas, the railwayman's leader, to whom he would entrust the letting out of bicycles.

I know exactly how he felt. I would not trust this government to negotiate its way out of a paper bag.

Boris Johnson has actually been in charge of hiring out bicycles but I cannot see anyone with the redeeming features of J. H. Thomas.

I live in daily expectation of one further faux pas and the government falling as did that first minority Labour government. They lost the subsequent election after the Daily Mail alleged interference from the Russians. It all sounds familiar.

I do not have much more faith in the Labour Party to handle Brexit either even though Keir Starmer speaks well at the dispatch box. I regret that the Opposition front bench does not include a greater number of moderate and experienced voices.

I despair at the current state of national politics at a time when the challenges have never been greater. This time last year, I asked you to pray for Theresa May as she had the best chance of finding a solution. The Almighty must be working in even more mysterious ways than usual. Members of the Cabinet contradict each other and the reports of the Prime Minister begging for help at the dinner table are humiliating.

The regular posturing of Tweedledum and Tweedledee at their twin podiums is embarrassing. Perhaps there are more detailed discussions going on behind the scenes that have of necessity to be kept secret? I have no idea, for example, of the government's proposals for the Irish border, which is a precondition of trade talks, or have any sense that progress is being made.

Each day brings more gloomy prognostications. The much respected OECD predicts the British economy will never recover. A German professor says Brexit is more complicated than landing a man on the moon. Five thousand more civil servants must be recruited. The North East economy will lose PS8bn if there is no deal. The Cornish pasty is threatened. Even discounting for hype, there is an unrelenting bad news story every time I switch on the radio.

According to Peter Kellner, support for leaving Europe is slowly seeping away. YouGov polls show that leave support has shrunk from 47% to 42%. I am heartened by hints of cross-party plotting for a soft Brexit and the apparent willingness of some Tories to desert the party line.

Michael Bloomberg called Brexit "the stupidest thing any country has done" at least "until America Trumped it". But I am not here seeking to challenge the referendum vote as much as despairing at the inability of the government to implement the so called will of the people. …

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