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Sunday 30 April 2017

Theresa May’s Marr Show Car Crash

After Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s less than stellar appearance before the inquisition of the host on The Andy Marr Show (tm) last week, this morning the BBC was granted an audience with our increasingly reclusive and stage-managed Prime Minister. And it has to be concluded that this was one campaign which progressed not necessarily to her advantage, as soundbites were deployed and questions were avoided.
Worse - far worse - was the crashing lack of empathy for the plight in which many workers - note, workers, meaning people in full-time employment - found themselves. Mrs T could have got away with doing that, and indeed did on numerous occasions. Not Ms May.

Marr began on the question of soundbites and slogans. The answer contained all too many of them: “there’s a reason for talking about strong and stable leadership and having a strong and stable government. It’s precisely because this is the most important election the country’s faced in my lifetime. It’s about the future of the country. It’s about the national interest”. Strong and stable. Future of the country. National interest. Most important.

Was she a bit robotic? Er, “We are facing a moment of change in this country. We’re facing a moment when we have the opportunity to take this country forward, to make it an even better place to live for people, for their futures, a more secure future for people”. We’ll take that as a yes, then. And it was on to the empathy - or lack of it.

Marr moved on to food poverty: “according to the Royal College of  Nursing [nurses have] had a 14 per cent pay cut since 2010. And we now get stories, again from the RCN, of lots of ordinary nurses by the end of the week having to use food banks because they can’t afford to pay for food. That is not the kind of country that you want to run, is it?

And empathy for those nurses was there none: “I want a country that works for everyone, not just the privileged few”. They’re not the privileged few, they’re the folks at the bottom of the pile. The robotics appeared to have been mis-programmed. Marr tried again: “I’m sorry, Prime Minister, we have nurses going to food banks at the moment, that must be wrong”.

Ms May saw Marr’s question, and raised him some more lack of empathy: “there are many complex reasons why people go to food banks”. No there sodding well aren’t: folks go to food banks because they’re both skint and hungry. This is not rocket science.

Marr maintained his line of questioning: “But the problem they have is that they haven’t got enough money to eat at the moment …  under your government, the record number of food parcels last year has been handed out according to the Trussell Trust. 1.2 million food parcels in this country … if people vote Conservative again is that going to carry on? And the answer seems to be yes”. The standard of reply didn’t improve much.
Marr gives the PM some stick (ho ho ho)

If I’m elected as Prime Minister, if a Conservative government is elected, what we will be doing is working to create a strong economy in this country, an economy which ensures that we’re creating secure and higher paid jobs for people. I want people to have security for their future. But to do that we need to get the Brexit negotiations right”.

What do the Brexit negotiations have to do with the immediate question of food poverty for those actually in work? Marr kept on about those Just About Managing voters.

Let’s talk about the whole of the country, and again about working families. There are lots of benefit cuts in the pipeline. If they were introduced now, then three million households in this country would be on average £2,500 worse off. Again, if they vote Conservative that is what is going to happen”. Working people becoming worse off.

The lack of empathy, robotic answers, soundbites and slogans came together: “there’s a reason for doing that, which is we want to ensure that of course there is a welfare system that gives people support when they need that support. But I also want to see a welfare system that is helping to encourage and see people getting into the workplace. I think work is the best route out of poverty. And as we do that we need to ensure also that we are being fair to working families”. WE’RE TALKING ABOUT PEOPLE WHO ARE IN WORK.

Meanwhile, there were those Brexit negotiations to wheel out: “We need to get those Brexit negotiations right … It’s about those Brexit negotiations”. But what there was not was any acknowledgement that school funding faces a crisis, nor any guarantee that there would be no income tax or VAT rises in future, nor even maintenance of the pensions “triple lock”. But there was a new deflection tactic being deployed.

This was “look over there at the manifesto”, so we heard “if you want to know what’s in our Manifesto, Andrew, you’ll have to wait until the Manifesto is published … Exactly how we calculate that increase will be for the Manifesto, and as I’ll just said you’ll have to wait for the Manifesto to see what’s in it”. Which rather short-changes the viewers, but hey ho.

And on the question of Brexit, would she not just have to go in and sign the cheque for anything between €40 and €60 billion? As if she was going to tell BBC viewers that. But we did know that she believed more votes for Herself would strengthen her negotiating hand. Like it didn’t do with Alexis Tsipras - the claim is fallacious.

Although Marr concluded the interview by saying “We’ve covered a lot”, much of it was soundbites, slogans, and that total lack of feeling for the plight of the little people. It was not the performance of another Thatcher. It was, let us not drive this one round the houses for too long, a car crash of a performance: wooden, repetitive and unconvincing.

But there was one good thing about Theresa May’s interviews (she also gave one to Robert Peston over on ITV), and that was the five and a half weeks between now and polling day. That means - so the Tories will be hoping - that most of the electorate will have forgotten what a lousy performance this prospective Prime Minister gave.

Pity that the EU negotiators won’t have forgotten, though. Not a good performance.

Karen Danczuk MP? You’ve Been Had

Some people are well-known merely for being Themselves Personally Now. Others would rather like to be well-known for the same reason, but have difficulty making the grade, and so resort to desperate measures to push themselves into the public eye. One of the latter category is former MP’s wife and serial wannabe Karen Danczuk, and her latest exercise in self-publicity shows her, and the media establishment, at their most shameless.
Kazza has in the past suggested that she would like to become an MP, an idea that has been met with derision anywhere in the Rochdale area, where she was briefly a Labour councillor before, so the story goes, she was prevailed upon not to stand again so that someone who knew what they were doing could have a go. But that did not stop her, and her media pals, from recycling the idea last week.

First to take the bait were the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog, who brought readers the allegedly exclusive headline “Double Danczuk In Commons? Karen Seeks Selection In Bury”. This dubious claim, backed up by “A source close to Karen”, told The Great Guido “Karen connects with people, she’s a poor girl done good, and she’s a local girl. She’s serious about getting selected”.
Yeah, right. But the hare was running, and so out came the Murdoch goons at the Sun to try and score some sales and clicks off it, asserting “SELFIE QUEEN Karen Danczuk is in the running to become the candidate for Bury North in the General Election … the mother of two  could join her estranged husband in the Commons if she was selected and won the seat”. The Fawkes blog is then quoted as if it were a genuine news source.

And if the Sun was chasing this dubious story, so was the Mail: “The mother-of-two, who is best known for posting provocative photos of her cleavage, has applied to become Labour’s candidate in the marginal seat of Bury North … If she is selected and wins she could join her estranged husband, the suspended Labour MP Simon Danczuk, in the Commons”. Was anyone bothering with a reality check? Like ask the local Labour party?
Well, no they weren’t, not even the Manchester Evening News, where the hacks should have known better. “If successful Ms Danczuk, who gained fame for posting revealing selfies on Twitter, would go up against sitting Conservative MP David Nuttall in the crucial marginal seat - which is considered to be a bellwether constituency” they told. Even the supposedly upmarket Sunday Times has been suckered.

Miss Selfie flashes her political assets … Once known for her racy snaps, Karen Danczuk is out to convince Labour her traumatic past will make her a valuable MP” tells Laura Pullman’s piece. And they all wasted their time, as Kazza has now admitted: it seems the 2015 PPC for Bury North, James Frith, is being given first refusal to run for Labour. Kazza makes her excuses, she remains in the public eye, and the press gets used again.

When will the media establishment learn to ignore wannabes like Karen Danczuk? Anyone would think there was nothing to report in the election campaign so far.

UKIP Islam Deselection Meltdown

The forthcoming General Election was always going to be difficult for UKIP: with the referendum on EU membership going in their favour, there was going to be difficulty finding issues that would differentiate the party from all the others. And after their proposals on “integration” were criticised as being definitely Islamophobic, if not blatantly racist, Paul Nuttall was always going to be vulnerable in that area.
I pulled the f***in' trigger but somehow shot meself in the foot

It was into this, shall we say, sensitive atmosphere that the potential candidature of one Anne Marie Waters was pitched last week. Ms Waters is the head of a group called Sharia Watch, which cites in its “Opinionpieces such sources as Jihad Watch, regarded as virulently Islamophobic, Breitbart (ditto), and Milo Yiannopoulos (no comment). She was to have stood as UKIP’s candidate in the constituency of Lewisham East.
Anne Marie Waters

But after her views gained a wider hearing, the Kippers clearly became more than a little queasy at the prospect of being called rather more than “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists”, and news emerged that UKIP was reconsidering allowing her to stand under their banner, despite having allowed her to stand in previous elections. In the Kippers’ defence, they had previously deselected her too, just to be on the safe side.
As the Independent reported, “A Ukip candidate who has described Islam as “evil” is facing potential deselection for her opinions … Ukip leader Paul Nuttall said the views espoused by Ms Waters, who appeared on far-right Swedish online platform Red Ice TV this month, made him feel ‘uncomfortable’ and the party's national executive committee would be looking at her record later on Friday”. And it seems she has now been deselected.
This has gone down like the proverbial cup of cold sick with many of those who thought UKIP was their spiritual home. The comments tell you all you need to know “#UKIP's deselection of @AMDWaters is the final nail in the coffin. @paulnuttallukip's bumbling ineptitude worthy of Corbyn. #UtterFool … you have lost the support of my family over the deselection of @AMDWaters. This is a very sad day for the future of the UK”.
There was more. “Deselection of @AMDWaters is final straw. I can't support #UKIP under @PaulNuttallUKIP's leadership. Listens to opposition instead of voters … after the deselection of @AMDWaters I will be cancelling my membership. You have zero backbone and are becoming a joke … @AMDWaters I'd decided to hold my nose &voteTory.Your deselection is last straw @paulnuttallukip should be ashamed to lose a true patriot”.
Ms Waters is Irish, but hey ho. Do go on. “I was about to vote for UKIP, but not after the deselection of @AMDWaters. Utterly spineless … Deselection of @AMDWaters You are clueless about true liberal values so caved in to the illiberal Left … After deselection of @AMDWaters , I will no longer be supporting UKIP. She is one of few people who speaks the truth on the death cult”. There were many more comments in the same vein.

All of which shows not only that UKIP appeals to Islamophobes and most likely racists too, but that many of those voters are now looking elsewhere. And the party’s poll ratings are already at rock bottom. It looks like the Kippers are finally being grilled.

Top Six - April 30

So what’s hot, and what’s not, in the past week’s blogging? Here are the six most popular posts on Zelo Street for the past seven days, counting down in reverse order, because, well, I have shopping stuff to do later. So there.
6 Brillo’s Sartorial Slip Andrew Neil, lead presenter of the BBC’s Daily Politics, was spotted wearing an ASI tie on the programme - that’s a right-wing Astroturf lobby group which specialises in occasionally shaky research. Oops!

5 UKIP’s Racist Integration Agenda The Kippers’ proposals would effectively make Muslims second class citizens. Not clever.

4 Spectator Endorses Racist Bigot This is the post that so upset former EDL head man Tommy Robinson - that the Spectator magazine ran a feature which took his opinions as if they were fact, no challenge being made to them.

3 Tory Expenses - Mundell Miracle Still on the Top Six, this post from almost a year ago looks at the election expense return for Scotland’s only Tory MP, and how there was no expense declared for travel in a very large constituency visited by lots of activists.

2 Sun Corbyn Nuke Whoppers BUSTED Did the Labour leader say he would never use nuclear weapons in his appearance on The Andy Marr Show (tm)? Er, no he didn’t.

1 Tommy Robinson Calls The former EDL leader fetched up on my doorstep with two of his mates in tow at dead of night. Not that this was an act of intimidation, you understand.

And that’s the end of another blogtastic week, blog pickers. Not ‘arf!

Saturday 29 April 2017

Brexit - Press Discovers Reality

The anti-EU press have given it to us non-stop since the referendum: they need us more than we need them, we can still be friends and have free trade (pace Daniel Hannan), there won’t really be any tariffs, we can pick off the member states one by one and do deals with them, they’ll miss us when we’re gone, they can’t do without all that money we send them, and JUST REMEMBER WHO WON THE WAR.
Going hand in hand with the soothing words to Britons have been the attacks on all those ghastly foreigners: abuse has been rained down on Jean-Claude Juncker, Donald Tusk, Martin Schultz, Guy Verhofstadt, Angela Merkel, François Hollande, Mark Rutte, and anyone who might be Spanish. It has been unremitting: how dare they tell us what to do? Who do they think they are? And now the press is realising it hasn’t worked.

Not only are more people than ever having second thoughts about Brexit, the EU is showing no signs of yielding to either blandishments or abuse. So it was that leaders of the other 27 EU member states met in Brussels today and showed our Press Establishment just how divided they were. Unfortunately for the press, they were not divided at all: it took them around one minute to unanimously agree the EU’s Brexit negotiating guidelines.
One minute. No dissent. No revolt. No abstention. No splits. No arguments. Nothing.

And there was even worse news, as Sky News’ political editor Faisal Islam told, the “divorce bill” and rights of EU citizens living in the UK have to come before trade talks. There will be no parallel talks, whatever Theresa May and her press backers say. There will be no separate trade deals with individual member states, as the BBC found when they visited Lisbon last week. No picking off smaller countries.
This realisation that the EU27 is in the driving seat, and will dictate how negotiations proceed, is at last starting to get through to our free and fearless press: the Murdoch Sun has admittedEU leaders double down and insist they will NOT let us start trade talks until we have coughed up a divorce bill”. That is what has been agreed today.
There is still a lingering reluctance to accept reality at the Mail, which has told readersEU draws a line in the sand: European leaders unanimously agree to defy Britain over trade talks until rights for citizens, divorce bill and the Irish border are settled”. In the strange world of the Northcliffe House bunker, the EU27, whose club it now is, are “defying” Britain, which is walking out. And the Mail had more bad news for its readers.
And we'd still be in this, cos it's not part of the EU

The rules were unchanged from the earlier draft - meaning Spain keeps its controversial veto on whether the deal applies to Gibraltar. It also confirms Britain cannot sign any trade deal with the EU until after it has actually left the bloc”. Moreover, as Faisal Islam has noted, Britain could still be negotiating with the EU27 after the Article 50 period has elapsed, still having to adhere to EU law and pay membership fees.

But by that time, we would have no seat at the table, and therefore no say in how the rules are made. That is what Brexit will really entail. And now the press is starting to realise that it might be difficult to keep telling their readers otherwise. Well, tough titty say I. Papers like the Mail and Sun ensured it got broken - now they can own the consequences.

Sun HS2 Cancellation Lies BUSTED

Poor David Wooding. The Sun’s alleged Sunday political editor has come another cropper, this time over his inability to figure out that stories looking too good to be true usually are too good to be true, the latest being about the HS2 project. Had Wooding engaged brain and checked his story back to its original source, he would have put it on the spike in very short order. But he didn’t - and is now covered in rather more than confusion.
High speed rail in the UK. But not yet

Wooding made his fatal mistake in running a story last Sunday titled “Fast rail axe for Brexit … Tory MPs want to put halt to £100billion HS2 high-speed rail network to save money for Brexit”. In the fevered imagination of the Murdoch goons in the Baby Shard bunker, HS2 now has an even bigger and scarier price tag. But this, like the rest of Wooding’s witterings, bears no relation to reality.

Still, on he ploughed: “TORY MPs are demanding a halt to the £100billion high-speed rail network - to save money for Brexit … They have persuaded Theresa May to abandon plans to build a line linking London with Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds”. No equivocation there: Wooding has stated that Theresa May has been persuaded to abandon HS2. He claims it will not go ahead. He’s utterly deluded.
David Wooding - a totally non-partisan hack. Allegedly

So where did this highly creative claim emanate? Wooding cites Tory MPs Andrew Bridgen and Cheryl Gilliam, both of whom are vehemently opposed to HS2. But, as Paul Bigland has shown, the idea that the Tories would put scrapping HS2 in their General Election manifesto had been put about by one Joe Rukin, the campaign manager for Stop HS2. Rukin is known for optimism that is excessive to the point of dishonesty.

So when Wooding’s article claims “Downing Street’s policy unit is actively considering a pause to the project being included in the Conservatives’ election manifesto”, that routes back to Rukin. And where Wooding gets his claim “A government source said last night: ‘It is being discussed but it is by no means a done deal’” - ie that the Tories really are giving serious consideration to ditching HS2 - is anyone’s guess. It’s not true.
We know this as Theresa May has now squashed any suggestion that the Tories are going soft on HS2. As the Yorkshire Post has reported, “Mrs May has come under pressure from some of her own backbenchers, who see no benefit from HS2 for their constituencies, to use the Conservative General Election manifesto to delay or even cancel the project … The Prime Minister said: ‘We remain absolutely committed to HS2. It is a very important infrastructure project for the country. It is important that we increase capacity on this mainline and I believe that HS2 is the right way to do that’”.

The Guardian confirmed thather announcement will end speculation that she was preparing to drop the new north-south railway from the Conservatives’ general election manifesto”. And if she committed a future Tory Government to deliver the project to Yorkshire, that means a commitment to the full “Y” network. No cuts, no buts.

All of which shows that David Wooding has pitched another crock of crap to his readers. Anyone who can’t be arsed subjecting an HS2 article to a reality check doesn’t deserve the time of day. Which means one thing: Don’t Buy The Sun.

UKIP - It’s A Death Cult

Another day in the General Election campaign, another challenge for UKIP’s comedy turn leader Paul Nuttall. The “Bad Bootle Meff” has been dodging questions about the subject that, now the EU referendum has been held and the exit process started, has come to define his party - its attitude to all those Scary Muslims (tm). Nuttall has already failed to convince commentators that his party’s manifesto is not bigoted in any way.
I keep pulling the f***in' trigger but it still won't extinguish me burning keks

Now, he’s got a full-scale hate speech row on his patch and appears unable to thus far do anything about it. The problem? “Ukip has been accused of ‘grubbing around in the gutter’ for votes after the party selected a parliamentary candidate who has described Islam as evil … Anne Marie Waters, an activist from the anti-Islam Pegida movement, has also praised the far-right leaders Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders”.

Ms Waters has described Islam as “evil”, and just for good measure has characterised followers of The Prophet of being paedophiles: “Whether it is politically correct or not to say it, people are concerned about Muslim immigration … They are concerned because Islamic culture does not fit with ours, and it is our culture that is being sacrificed. They are concerned that their children are at risk of rape and sexual abuse”.

Once again, the purity of “our culture” is at the forefront of the Kipper agenda, which is not a substitute term for “White British culture” at all, honestly. And Ms Waters is not the only problem for Nuttall: one of his MEPs is making similar noises.

Gerard Batten said that Islam should be referred to asMohammedanism - the cult of Mohammed - because that is what it is … It is a death cult, born and steeped in 1,400 years of violence and bloodshed, that propagates itself by intimidation, violence and conquest”. I think my Muslim near-neighbours just bought the freehold, but hey ho.
This thought does not detain Batten: “The terrorists are the vanguard of Mohammedanism. They set out to cow the non-Mohammedan population, so that the ‘moderate Muslims’ can get on establishing sharia courts, forcing halal food in school and works canteens, and making the authorities look the other way regarding criminal activities for fear of being called racist and Islamophobic … A normal non-Mohammedan should have a perfectly rational fear of ‘Islam’”. The Scary Muslims (tm) are clearly coming to get him!

Nuttall has a clear course of action, and there is a recent precedent. Stephen Latham, who fought West Bromwich East for UKIP in 2015, and who saidSo the Muslims have infiltrated the Labour party. What a surprise. Who would have guessed such a thing was possible? The Labour Party of Diane Abbott and Harriet Harman infiltrated by the evil cult of Islam. Wow” was later prevented from standing for them again.

Latham claimed he couldn’t remember making those comments, then didn’t remember how a cut and paste job from a far-right blog claiming “European integration amounts to genocide” had got onto his Facebook page. But ultimately he didn’t convince his local party and will not be allowed to stand for them again.

So Paul Nuttall has a precedent to work from. Will he have Anne Marie Waters removed, or won’t he? Or is UKIP on the inevitable downward spiral of the death cult?

Friday 28 April 2017

Brillo’s Sartorial Slip

Sometimes the BBC not only brings us the news, but ends up in the news itself, the latest example coming yesterday as Daily Politics lead presenter Andrew Neil was dropped in the mire by the organisation he might least have expected to do the deed. And this time it wasn’t something he said or did, but something he wore, that sparked the controversy. The story takes us to the oldest of Astroturf lobby groups.
Something else to chew on

Yesterday, the Twitter feed of the Adam Smith Institute gushed “Andrew Neil @afneil looking dashing in an ASI tie on the @daily_politics this afternoon. Grab your own here”. But, so what? Well, the ASI’s claim to fame is, first and foremost, that it is a museum of outdated economic thought that has fraudulently appropriated the name of the founder of economics. It is inherently and deeply Conservative in nature.

The ASI’s recent history has built not on Smith’s work, but on the strain of small-state, libertarian and free market philosophy so beloved of the likes of Milton Friedman, whose devotion to markets was such that he not only championed them, but declared any part of the economy where there was no market to be some kind of aberration, to be corrected only by the creation of a market. And state intervention was Streng Verboten.
In this, the ASI is today in the same bowl of alphabet soup as the TPA, CPS and IEA - all of them highly Conservative, sympathising with and supporting right-wing ideas, politics, parties, and candidates. Thus the problem for Neil and the BBC when he appears on air wearing a garment which appears to align him with such bodies. And it gets worse: as longstanding Zelo Street regulars will know, the ASI’s research has a poor track record.

The group, as is mandatory in Astroturf lobby group land, joined in the chorus of knocking copy directed at the HS2 project. Here, they demonstrated a lack of research and shortfall in technical knowledge that verged on the laughable. Spain, which constructs high speed rail lines at a relatively low cost, was explained away by telling it had “generally flat countryside”. The heroic scale of tunnelling for many lines shows it does not.
BR’s Advanced Passenger Train (APT) becomes APR in ASI-speak. France is held to have something called Très Grande Vitesse (TGV stands for Train À Grande Vitesse, and it runs on the LGV, or Ligne À Grande Vitesse). And the trains for HS2 will include “16 high-speed sets that will operate exclusively over the wider-gauge high-speed track”. There won’t be any “wider-gauge” track. The report had not been read for technical competence.
But the ASI had read “Gauge” - which meant “Structure Gauge” in HS2’s case - and thought the term applied only to the track. So association with the ASI links anyone thus associated not only to a highly partisan organisation, but one whose research standards leave something to be desired, all of which is not a good look.

Of course, Andrew Neil is free to wear whoever’s ties he likes. But equally, those of us on the other side of the screen are free to raise eyebrows and put the question.

Theresa May EU Dead Cat BUSTED

With the General Election campaign now under way, Theresa May was clearly in need yesterday of more and better excuses to put out there and deflect attention from her inability to get out and meet real people. What was called for was a good old dead cat to sling on the political table, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel unwittingly provided it, as she told the Bundestag that Britain had “illusions” about its Brexit negotiations.
That was all that was needed: the rotten German woman said something rotten! It wasn’t fair! Soon, this had become “all the other 27 EU member states are ganging up on us and so it’s even more not fair”. Ms May had deployed her dead cat. But this was at the expense of even more good will on the part of the 27, among whom there is precious little time being devoted to bothering about a country that is on the way out.

This reality was underscored when the BBC’s Europe Editor Katya Adler journeyed to Lisbon, where we saw a red tourist tram in the Praça do Comércio (wonder where the Beeb got that idea?) before the serious business began, an interview with Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa. The country was an old ally, wasn’t it? So did Senhor Costa have some kind and friendly words for us here in Britain?
Ah, but the response Ms Adler received was very much as it would have been in any other capital city of an EU member state: Portugal was leaving the Brexit business to the folks in Brussels. Costa has enough on his plate keeping his centre-left and left coalition Government focused on maintaining the country’s economic recovery; there would be no separating member states and picking them off.
Praça do Comércio, Lisbon. With red tourist tram

That, after all, was the whole point of being in the European club: one team of negotiators deals with trade, and one team deals with Brexit. There was nothing more for Ms Adler to do, save to send back some shots from the Belém waterfront and perhaps stop off at the Pastéis de Belém custard tart shop, before heading to her next assignment.

It got worse for Ms May: as David Allen Green pointed out, “The unity of EU27 on Brexit was put in place from June to September 2016, and sealed at Bratislava summit (weeks before Tory conference)”. In other words, the idea that the others are ganging up on Britain is not one of sudden realisation. It’s something that has been known for several months. That underscores the opportunist nature of the PM’s outburst yesterday, and confirms that it was indeed the throwing onto the table of the day’s dead cat.
Got the attitude in one

Theresa May will get precisely nowhere by blubbering about the jolly rotten foreigners ganging up on Britain. And if the country’s oldest ally - it goes back to the late 14th Century - isn’t going to break ranks to do us any special favours, then the only point of her dead cat throwing is to give her pals in the press something with which they can encourage their readers to vote Tory. That’s how cynical and pointless it is.

Meanwhile, the Brexit negotiations await. Whatever the nature of today’s dead cat.

Garden Bridge IS DEAD

The vanity indulgences of London’s formerly very occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson are legion: the cable car that has no regular users, the 1,000 buses that came at a premium price and generated no exports, the water cannon that his own party put the kibosh on him using, and then there was the Garden Bridge across the Thames, the result of Joanna Lumley gently twisting Bozza’s arm (Oo-er chaps!).
End of the Heatherwick Boondoggle

As Zelo Street regulars will know, the Garden Bridge was inexplicably bunged a significant amount of public money on Bozza’s say-so, but would still have required the guarantee of yet more in order to cover its running costs and maintenance. The warnings from sources like the Architect’s Journal came thick and fast: the likelihood of the trustees managing to persuade sufficient sponsors to pony up more money was fading fast.
The withering assessment from central Government was telling: as Dave Hill at OnLondon concluded earlier this month,”Margaret Hodge’s excavation of how the Garden Bridge project has got into its present, rickety state is starkly illuminating about Johnson’s time at City Hall, an eight year tenure characterised by arrogance, hypocrisy and a paucity of achievements for which he has yet to be held fully to account”.

I’ve said many times that the reputation of Bozza’s Mayoralty was kept afloat by the fawning complicity of his pals in the press establishment, and that the reality was rather different. Now, push has finally come to shove, and his successor Sadiq Khan, under pressure to address all those issues which were too much for Bozza to get his head round, has taken the decision: he has effectively killed off the Garden Bridge project.
Khan has written to the Garden Bridge Trust to give them the bad news: “The funding gap is now at over £70m and it appears unlikely that the trust will succeed in raising the private funds required for the project … I am simply not prepared to risk a situation where the taxpayer has to step in and contribute significant additional amounts to ensure the project is completed”. More than £37 million of public money has already been wasted.

Commissioning Ms Hodge, a former chair of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, to review the project was key. As the Guardian has reported, she found “What had started as a project estimated to cost £60m was likely to end up costing more than £200m … the Garden Bridge Trust had lost major donors and secured only £69m in private pledges, leaving a gap of at least £70m, with no new pledges obtained since August 2016”.
As the Tweeter known as Folly For London has pointed out, this decision may well be as significant as the decision to stop the senseless demolition of Covent Garden in the 1970s. I’ll go further: this is the moment that the myth of the Johnson Mayoralty finally began to unravel. It could not come at a worse time for the Tories, but for the press establishment, the shame will be greater, and deservedly so. This waste is partly their doing.

In Sadiq Khan, London has a Mayor prepared to Do The Right Thing. More power to him.

Man With Knife Sends Press OTT

Such is the hair-trigger nature of the Westminster bubble after last month’s attack on the capital’s people and Parliament that all it took was a routine Police operation - concluded peacefully and without anyone suffering injury - to set the press off in an orgy of headless chicken impersonations. A man with a knife! No, more than one knife! A man with a beard who might be a Scary Muslim (tm)! Jihadis! Terror! AAAAARRGHHH!!!
So what actually happened? The Police had been monitoring the movements of a man in his late 20s, and had followed him onto an Underground train travelling along the District and Circle Lines. He left the train at St James’s Park station and walked back towards Westminster, where the order went out to stop him. He was detained near the north-west corner of Parliament Square, at the south end of Parliament Street.
No-one else was involved. No-one was attacked, and so no-one was injured. Had the stop been effected in, say, central Manchester or Leeds, there would have been very little said about it, although those out on the far right would have expended plenty of heat, but generated very little light, in sounding off about Muslims and jihad. But because it happened  under the noses of the London-centric media, all hell broke loose.
WESTMINSTER KNIFE TERROR” screamed freesheet Metro, while the i paper scoured the thesaurus to bring readers “Westminster terror suspect thwarted by armed Police” and then consulted Google Maps to reveal the bleeding obvious: “Dramatic arrest by armed officers just yards just yards from scene of recent Parliament attack”. Yeah, well, “Parliament Street” and “Parliament Square” might just have told readers that already.
The rest of the press pack does little better, with the Express howling “NEW WHITEHALL KNIFE TERROR” (he didn’t get as far as Whitehall, lads, go back to Google Maps and look again) and the Mail going with “New Westminster Terror Alert … SEIZED, WITH ‘A RUCKSACK FULL OF KNIVES’”. Where was the “new terror alert”? It was a routine operation. Was the threat level changed? No it wasn’t.
Over at the increasingly desperate and downmarket Telegraph, the best they could manage was “Downing Street Terror Plot”, which is wrong twice over: Downing Street was not involved, and one suspect does not a plot make. How about the Murdoch goons at the Sun? It was down to the usual standard: “New Westminster Terror Foiled”. New Westminster terror WHAT foiled? But they knew it was a “jihadi”.
Except they didn’t, which was why they used quote marks. And there had to be a crude pun: “KNIFE ONE LADS!” Yes, the Super Soaraway Currant Bun loves the cops, except when they put the inmates of the Baby Shard bunker under surveillance, in which case it’s a diabolical liberty, innit? The boring reality is that law enforcement authorities did their homework and did their jobs. Hardly worth the screaming and ranting, was it?

But it lets the press pursue its Scary Muslims (tm) agenda, and might flog a few more papers, so that’s all right, then.