“In a way, it’s lucky to have a turbulent life. When everything is to easy, sometimes people lose enthusiasm. I don’t know what will happen in the future; there are no guarantees. But, so far, so good.”
There used to be something called “silly season.” This was the time in the late summer, after Parliament had stopped sitting, when Fleet street, as it then was, relaxed its not very demanding standards and encouraged the inventiveness of its journalists. The column inches which had been devoted to the verbatim reports of what was going on in Parliament were instead filled with all kind of stories about crop circles, shattering windscreens, and to I do not know what all.
Such stories no longer have the prominence that they once enjoyed. The press has become more serious, and the arrival of American style fact checkers has caste an unwelcome gloom over our summers. Woodward and Bernstein with their obsession with “well sourced” ( i.e. boring ) scoops have a lot to answer for! But the phrase “silly season” has remained as a way of dismissing stories in the press which really do not cut it as real news. It is not surprising therefore that the wave of enthusiasm for Jacob Rees Mogg as the next British prime minister has been disparaged a silly season chatter, as in some respects it is, or was!
Moggy is good. There is no doubt about that. He is immaculately presented. He is bright. He is well informed, unnervingly articulate, and consequently a star on Youtube, where clips of his performances have deservedly become hugely popular.
In many ways he reminds me of William F. Buckley junior ( 1925-2008 ). Like Buckley he comes from a rich Catholic background ( God love her, his wife has just given birth the their sixth child! ) And above all like Buckley he is in love with the English language as a spoken medium.
For others appearing on television is a duty, a chore, something that they have to do because it is demanded by the role that they play. But for those like Buckley and Rees Mogg, it is obviously a delight. This gives them a huge advantage. Buckley not only had things to say, but he relished the process of saying them. I detect the same pleasure in Jacob Rees Mogg. Unlike his father William, who was the editor of “The Times” and a highly professional journalist, young Jacob does not shine in print. His web site is unremarkable, but he dominates the studio in the way that Buckley did.
There is however a crucial difference between Buckley and Rees Mogg. Buckley had no real ambitions for office, despite the fact that he did run to be the mayor of New York City in 1965. Buckley understood that his gift was as a publicist. He understood that his “charism,” to use the theological term, was to be spokesman, and as an enabler of others as editor of “The National Review” – the magazine that he founded. But Rees Mogg is a member of Parliament who is being seriously promoted as a potential prime minister. While being articulate is, or should be, a necessary condition for being Premier, it is not a sufficient condition. This is especially true in parliamentary system like the British where nuts and bolts are everything. The overwhelming objection to Jacob Rees Mogg succeeding Mrs May as prime minister is that he lacks any kind of administrative experience. We know he can talk. But we do not know he can walk.
That said though, he is obviously, like Buckley, an enormously talented man. A man, moreover, who is popular not only within his own party, but is also liked by his opponents too. He is transparently decent, and is clearly to not on the make. For all these reasons he deserves promotion in the next reshuffle, perhaps even to one of the great offices of state. It is only by seeing how will he performs in such a position that we can judge whether he is a indeed new Disraeli, as his supporters imply, or whether Moggmentum is just a piece of silly season fun!
By Michael Dwyer.
The notion that it is only by carefully segmenting the nation into distinct and competing sets of victims we can create united and pacific country is one that eludes many. It has been tested to destruction.
In the polling conducted after victory of Donald Trump in last years Presidential election one of the most consistent themes that emerged among blue collar ex democrats who voted for him was not, as many would have liked, a nasty resentment for the advances made by persons of colour, but the perception that the playing field was no longer level, the rules no longer fair.
It is ironic that in an Ireland vastly more diverse than it was that the Dail should now chosen to invent Irish Travellers as a separate ethnic group. A combination of virtue signalling by politicians and rent seeking by the Representariat has brought this about. Whether the majority of ordinary travellers on the street desire to be considered as somehow other than simply Irish is not clear.
What is certain is that this will cost money, much more than anyone of our virtue loving TDs imagine. It will deepen the already concerning level of hostility felt by many settled people for travellers. It will further discourage the important conversation that must take place about to what extent poor outcomes are results of internal cultural issues rather than social marginalisation.
Finally and sadly, it is another nail in the coffin of the Republican idea. The ideal is that we are all citizens to be esteemed equally, none higher or lower, to be judged and protected equally under the laws of our Republic, regardless of race, sex, or creed. This decision is then another unconsidered uncosted step towards a democracy where power will be wielded by coalitions of victims.
A major talking point this week has been the suggestion made by Ray Bassett, a former Irish ambassador to Canada, that Ireland should leave the EU in the wake of Brexit. Mr Bassett’s argument is essentially economic. He believes that the Irish economy is still so intertwined with the British that Ireland will pay an unacceptably high cost if it remains in the EU after Britain has left.
The part of the interest in all this is the way in which Mr. Bassett’s argument reveals the limits of purely economic thinking. Of course in one way we are all Marxists now. Economics is important. But as J.R. Lucas emphasised they are not all important. And no doubt the British connection is still vital in Ireland- especially up and down the East coast- although London does feel a long way away in Galway.
Human beings though are not solely controlled by economic motives. They have loyalties, loves and hates which go far beyond getting and spending. Just as the British people showed when they voted in June 2016 that taking back control was more important to them than the claims of the experts- most of whom seemed to be economists- so the Irish people at present believe that the European Union is more to their political taste than a free trade relationship with Britain- which seems to be the alternative being promoted by Mr. Bassett.
There are two parts to the explanation for this. There is, of course, the difficult legacy of Anglo Irish history. Ireland still wants to differentiate itself from England. If England measures in miles, then “sure as eggs is eggs” Ireland will want to measure in kilometres. But this tendency is becoming less important. England is increasingly being seen not as the ancestral enemy but simply next door. More important now is the point that Britain and Ireland have quite different experiences of the EU. In Britain the EU appears to be just another level of intrusive, unnecessary, and welcome bureaucracy. But in Ireland it is associated with modernity, efficiency, good administration, transparency, and a new prosperity. In Britain the EU is about square bananas, whereas in Ireland it is about new motorways. Unsurprising then the EU has sunk deep roots in Ireland. The Irish people were as much puzzled as shocked by Brexit. They just didn’t “get” what the English Brexiteers were worried about.
All this is reflected in the opinion polls. The EU is still very popular in Ireland. And any proposal to withdraw Ireland from the EU would have to be voted on. And there is at present no chance that any such referendum would pass. Indeed it would probably be very heavily defeated in every constituency in the country.
The danger then of Mr. Bassett’s visionary proposal is that it will detract attention from the real difficulties that further European integration poses for Ireland. This country’s newfound wealth is not due just to access to European markets- important as they are; but also to our low rate corporation tax- and, of course, the much higher equivalent rate in the United States. It is simply impossible, as Mr. Bassett recognises, to imagine modern Ireland without our low business tax regime. It is the very foundations of modern Irish prosperity. And yet this relative advantage of that Ireland enjoys is under active threat from integrationist forces deep within the EU that are determined to harmonize tax rates throughout the Union. The most important immediate challenge then for Ireland today is simply this: How can we protect our low business tax rate on which our prosperity depends?
It is not obvious in the short run, that talk of Ireland leaving the EU will make this vital task any easier. Given the state of our public opinion about the EU, we have then, on this issue, no choice but to collaborate with our European partners. For now we need all the friends we can get in Europe if our present tax regime is to continue..
In the long run though Mr. Bassett’s proposal may will be of value if it concentrates the minds of Irish decision makers on another but less immediate question that faces this country, namely whether of not Ireland is really a good fit in a European super state dominated by France and Germany, or whether some alternative might be worth considering? But that, as we say in North Wexford, is “another day’s work!”