Monday, 30 September 2019

A community against bovine TB

Peter Black, in and out of the Assembly, has been campaigning long and hard against the official badger biocide in England. The Welsh Government's more enlightened policy on bovine TB has survived the departure of most of the Liberal Democrats and the arrival of the more huntin' and shootin' inclined members of UKIP and the BREXIT organisation, though there has been pressure on funds in recent years.  Now there is news of a local initiative in Gower which aims to take the battle against TB in both badgers and cattle a stage further.

Gower has been a hot spot for bovine TB. Farmers, local vets and other members of the community have taken up the badger vaccination programme in a big way. Measures to control cattle movement are being considered. It seems to me that Gower, with natural boundaries on most sides, is an ideal area to prove what many of us feel is the way forward in tackling the disease.

Work towards controlling the disease has been given a boost by an inaugural conference at Aberystwyth University, as reported in last week's Country Focus. Leading figures from farming, veterinary science, government and academia came together to look at the latest developments in diagnosing bovine TB - the limitations in the current test, how it might better be used and what innovations are coming down the line. The university's bovine TB Centre of Excellence is generating evidence to help inform TB control.

Friday, 27 September 2019

Glamorgan - once again, a promising start and a sad finish

I confess that after the first few results when we contested the top spot with Lancashire in the second division of the county championship that this was going to be the year when the county reclaimed its proper place in cricket's hierarchy. We should have taken a crushing defeat by the red rose county at Colwyn Bay in our stride. After all, Lancashire has been virtually all-conquering this season. However, there seems to have been an undue effect on the players' self-confidence, not helped by dismal failures in the one-day competitions. Undoubtedly, though, the biggest blow was having to cede Marnus Labuschagne to the Australian tourists. Securing the services of Kraigg Brathwaite was a great coup, but came too late the shore up the soggy middle of the championship season. If we had won one of those matches, this week's weather would have seen to it that we finished higher up the beach than our challengers. (A word of sympathy for Somerset who seemed to be on track to win their first country championship, only to be thwarted at the last.)

 A bright note is the probable return of Labuschagne for the 2020 season. We still need a Waqar Younis capable of clearing out obstinate tail-enders to have a perfect division-winning team, but otherwise things look promising. Now can we please have more than just the one week in Wales' second city?

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Johnson and emotion

"Psychopaths and sociopaths share a number of characteristics, including a lack of remorse or empathy for others, a lack of guilt or ability to take responsibility for their actions, a disregard for laws or social conventions, and an inclination to violence. A core feature of both is a deceitful and manipulative nature."  - from Psychopaths versus sociopaths: what is the difference? in The Conversation.

It is very tempting to diagnose prime minister Johnson as a sociopath on the basis of that article, especially as he has made his political way in the world on the basis of charm and a sense of entitlement. His response ("humbug") to Paurla Sherriff's emotional tirade linking the neo-Nazi murder of her friend Jo Cox with the sort of language which was flying around during the last referendum campaign would seem to indicate that. However, it could also be an innate revulsion at any display of emotion, a "stiff upper lip" attitude  ingrained by years of private education. One recalls his attack on Liverpudlians' "wallowing in their victim status" as a result of Hillsborough.

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

There has to be a Prorogation Act

In the first Urgent Question session to the resumed House of Commons today, the Attorney-General several times unequivocally endorsed the right of the Supreme Court to extend the Common Law. In doing so, he stated that they had created a new principle in relation to prorogations. The trouble is that uncertainty has been created as to when the courts are able to intervene in a prorogation. The thought that occurred to me was: who is to decide what is an exceptional length of time, and does that not depend on circumstances?

The successful legal actions in Edinburgh and in London were a timely example of a process described in this year's Reith Lectures, that of encroachment of lawyers on a field previously and properly occupied by elected representatives. That ground could be recovered by enshrining in statute law not only the generally-held understandings but also their limits. In the present case, Parliament should have the final say on prorogations as it does in calling recesses.

Tuesday, 24 September 2019


Now that prorogation never happened, I hope that our MPs raise their heads from the unedifying Brexit disputes for long enough to rescue the Bills referred to in my previous posting.

Parliamentary life goes on. The Institute for Government has published a paper on outsourcing. This seems a good time to take stock as the first flushes of outsourcing under Labour and Conservatives have passed. As the introduction to the paper says:

outsourcing waste collection, cleaning, catering and maintenance services has delivered significant savings and benefits to citizens. Particularly in these areas, bringing services entirely back into government hands could lead to worse and more expensive services for the public. 

The report also shows that consecutive governments have overstated the benefits of outsourcing. Senior politicians regularly claim outsourcing can still deliver 20–30% savings but there is no evidence to support this. It highlights a series of high-profile contract failures – including security at the Olympics, welfare assessments, offender tagging and probation. These contracts have wasted millions of pounds, delivered poor services and undermined public trust. The outsourcing of probation failed on every measure, harming ex-offenders trying to rebuild their lives.

Consecutive governments have outsourced services with no market of good suppliers or in pursuit of unrealistic cost savings – and without a reasonable expectation that companies could deliver efficiencies or improve the quality of services.

The report recommends that the current government must strengthen its commercial skills and capabilities, makes ministers and officials more accountable to the public and improve the evidence base that informs outsourcing decisions.

Monday, 23 September 2019

You want to stand by a dodgy decision? Really?

The BBC in its vox pops continues to find respondents who voted Remain "but now just want to get out", many who voted Leave and who opine that making a clean break with the EU is the only democratic course. Admittedly, they send their young reporters out to areas of West Midlands which recorded the highest percentage of Leave votes, but my personal experience and that of my friends is that the Leave vote is softening. We would like to see the BBC surveying one of those constituencies which voted Leave in 2016 but whose citizens were among the most keen to sign the "Revoke Article 50" petition.

Let us clear this anti-democratic issue for a start. The 2016 was mandatory only because one of the worst prime ministers in UK history said it was. The legislation and the official House of Commons advice stated the traditional legal position, that referendums in this country are only advisory. This country has operated as a representative democracy for nearly one thousand years, on and off. For Johnson and the ERG to claim that a referendum, bedevilled by fake news and voters taking a pop at the government just because it is the government, is more democratic than the deliberations of MPs is too reminiscent of Hitler and Goebbels. By the way, those MPs who voted in favour of the Iraq invasion were quite ready to admit that they were wrong, and that they had been swayed by false evidence. If MPs are big enough to do this, then why not ordinary members of the public, given a further referendum.

The referendum campaign resembled one of those murder trials in certain areas of the States, where the DA fabricates evidence to convict a poor black, who is represented by an advocate who is drunk or incompetent or both. On finding out that their verdict was flawed, do the jurors feel that their decision should stand, even though it was wrong, and the convict should be executed? Fortunately, the States' judicial systems do allow for appeals.

And if intransigent Leavers insist that there should be just one referendum and we must abide by it, I would point out that we had one 1975 which, free of fake news, returned a two-thirds vote in favour of Remaining.

No photo description available.

Saturday, 21 September 2019


The official web-site of the International Churchill Society is pretty certain that one of WSC's more notorious epigrams ("Anyone can rat, but it takes a certain amount of ingenuity to re-rat") is at base genuine, even though no direct attribution can be found. It was said to have been coined when the great man returned to the Conservatives after a golden period in the Liberal party when he and Lloyd George, aided by a young civil servant named William Beveridge, laid the foundations of the welfare society. That return was largely seen as opportunism at the time, the Conservatives' fortunes having been restored and the Labour Party's enjoying their first great surge in support at the expense of the Liberals. Indeed, this may have been a genuine spur to Churchill's estrangement from the party and, possibly, personally from Lloyd George. Churchill had a visceral loathing of socialism and could not tolerate the Liberals' co-habitation with Labour.

One cannot see much re-ratting to the Johnson Conservative Party on the part of the new recruits to the Liberal Democrats. There are no remaining traditional Conservatives around whom a revived party could coalesce. The once-proud successor to the party of Disraeli and Macleod has become, as Vince pointed out in his speech in Bournemouth yesterday, the English National Party.

So the reason for our new members' escape (or expulsion) from the "ENP" is clear, but the attraction of the Liberal Democrats is less so. Dr Wollaston was, from early on in her parliamentary career, obviously in the wrong party. Her initial loyal support of the government line on Brexit withered with her chairing of the Health Select Committee and her realisation, as the evidence rolled in, that a break with the rest of the EU would exacerbate the personnel shortages and the supply of some essential medicines. In other respects, her humanity was at odds with the growing power of the ERG. But the last two transfers-in seemed more problematic.

I am one of those nerds who rush off to UK-Elect (to check constituency voting figures) and to (for voting records) when a member of parliament changes status. What I read about Dr Phillip Lee disturbed me. On economic matters, he could kindly be described as a Gladstonian liberal. On civil rights, he stuck too firmly to his party's line. There might be the excuse of cabinet collective responsibility from 2016 on when he was a junior Justice minister, but not before that. He avoided votes on equal marriage and on enforcing Northern Ireland compliance with rights legislation which applies to the rest of the UK. Facebook friends also pointed out his proposed illiberal amendment to the 2014 Immigration Bill which would mandate testing of refugees for HIV. (Note that this was not in itself homophobic; although HIV is in the first world a problem mainly for the gay community, globally - and especially in Africa - it is predominantly a heterosexual disease.)

Sam Gyimah is certainly not homophobic. His voting on personal sexual relations is a model of liberalism, and he was punished by his constituency party in part because of it. On the other hand, he also followed the party line on other touchstone issues, including the repeal of the Human Rights Act.

The party's chief whip in the Commons, Alistair Carmichael, addressed these issues and others as part of the parliamentary report-back section of UK conference last Saturday evening. Alistair's readiness to answer questions, not only on the topic but also on the specific acquisitions, is what one has come to expect of a party dedicated to openness and honesty. There was plenty of razzmatazz when Shaun Woodward and Quentin Davies jumped ship, but I do not recall their conference querying Labour's acceptance of long-standing Conservatives. As to the Conservatives themselves, the last MP to move to them from another party was Reg Prentice, forty-two years ago. Prentice had been deselected by his Labour constituency party for his attempts to combat communist entryism. However, one was reminded yesterday of Sajjad Karim, who moved from the Liberal Democrats to the Conservatives when he found that he would not have the key first place on the Euro list for the English North-West in 2008. He clearly did not manage to make the Conservatives any more liberal as he recounted yesterday as part of the campaign against Islamophobia in the party.

Alistair emphasised that recruitment was a long drawn-out process of frequent conversations. Many more leads are followed than actually come to fruition. Lee had been quizzed about the Immigration Bill amendment. Incidentally, Dr Wollaston also signed this amendment, though she later withdrew her signature. His explanation was that it was only a probing amendment with no expectation that it would ever reach the statute book. Alistair also pointed out a liberal slant to Dr Lee's work at the Home Office in progressing measures to rehabilitate offenders. Finally, things have to be cleared with the local parties.

I had initial doubts, but having heard the chief whip's explanation my worst fears have been allayed. There are clearly still deviations from the Lib Dem norm, but that is only to be expected as the parliamentary party grows and they do not go to the heart of what we stand for. Certainly, I am far happier about these latest developments than I was about Emma Nicholson's "ratting", which seems to have been occasioned solely by the then Conservative Party's institutional misogyny. This has improved and I note that Baroness Nicholson quietly slipped back to her traditional home three years ago.

The natural political progression is from radical to conservative. Could our new recruits genuinely feel more liberal as they have matured politically? Well, there is at least one outstanding example of a politician seeing the light. When he first entered politics, John Bercow was a devotee of the Monday Club, that swivel-eyed collection of hangers, floggers and let's-beat-the-woggers. Now, he is virtually indistinguishable from a social democrat. As those who felt they were misfits in other parties adjust to their new Liberal Democrat family, I trust that our family values will be steadily absorbed.

Friday, 20 September 2019

Not dead yet

Apologies to anybody who still reads my stuff (and I include the Labour councillors who I am sure still check up on me) for the gap in posting since Sunday. What happened was that a cold that I thought I had got over was replaced on Monday by a ferocious member of the breed which practically incapacitated me. All the usual symptoms were telescoped into 24 hours and it just so happened that the asthma inhalers were near the end of their life so that I had difficulty managing the congestion when I did start to recover. I did manage a few Facebook postings, but those required less mental effort than a piece for the blog. However, normal service will shortly be resumed.

The Liberal Democrat federal conference in Bournemouth, as relayed in full by the BBC (hurrah!) offered some relief. It has also provoked a backlash by Johnson, Corbyn and Foster who clearly see burying their differences over the Barnier withdrawal proposals as more palatable than entering a general election in which all their parties will lose seats. Expect some coded messages from Labour's conference that Boris Johnson has made concessions to Jeremy Corbyn over the withdrawal terms, and complementary indications from Manchester - always assuming that the prorogation remains lawful and that Speaker Bercow does not recall parliament first.

Sterling has already risen a few points against most other currencies on the basis of rumours that a deal has come closer. An orderly withdrawal may be almost as bad as a clean break for the British in the long term, but it would provide certainty and markets do not like uncertainty.

The big winner could be Boris Johnson. He will be seen to have succeeded where others have failed. If Parliament approves the deal, the immediate pain of withdrawal will be deferred by a transition period which could last as long as three years. He will no doubt bring back into the fold Conservatives who went Independent of their own accord or were expelled. It may not restore technically his majority, but it will suffice for all practical purposes. It will take off the pressure for an immediate general election.

That parliamentary approval is his biggest hurdle. It is unlikely that the Commons would throw out the deal on principle (much as most Remainers would like MPs to do so) but it is virtually certain that they would insist on a confirmatory referendum.

Thursday, 12 September 2019

What has happened to the Conservative Party?

I remember, even after Margaret Thatcher - who was a radical, rather than a conservative - made the big break from the post-war consensus, that a cabinet minister lost his post because he was revealed to have fathered a child outside marriage.  Now, we have a prime minister no less, voted in by a large majority of the party, who is a serial adulterer. Prime minister Johnson has had the whip removed from the last representatives of the true Conservative tradition leaving only high Tory relics and spivs. Yesterday, the highest Scottish court found that he had committed virtually the ultimate sin, disrespecting the monarch by lying to her over the justification for prorogation.

One wonders whether the party has any standards at all these days, but it appears this clause of its constitution is still in force:

79 No Member of Parliament of either House, no Member of the European Parliament, no prospective Member of the European Parliament, no Assembly or prospective Assembly Member in England or Wales, no Assembly Member or prospective Assembly Member or its equivalent in Northern Ireland, no Councillor or prospective Councillor, no Candidate or prospective Candidate, no Party Member, or applicant for membership, no Party Officer or prospective employee; shall have engaged or engage in conduct which brings or is likely to bring the Party into disrepute.

Is the compliance officer asleep on the job?

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

The Palace Theatre, Swansea

The planned redevelopment misses the point, surely? The only reason to save the building was as a variety theatre as a whole. We are told that there has been too much internal damage over the years (and no doubt the recent fire has conveniently completed the destruction) for the Palace to be restored to its former glory - so why retain the façade if all the council wants to do is provide yet more office/retail space?

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

What value years of training?

This story is of the parlous conditions of orchestral musicians in the United States. Things are better in Europe where there is more public subsidy and less reliance on the whims of capitalists. However, the pressures on classical musicians are increasing here.

Perhaps we will revert to music-making being restricted to amateurs, with orchestras, except for a few specialists, being populated by part-timers.

Monday, 9 September 2019

EU27 patience may be running out

There is this vague memory of a British airliner of the 1960s which the Ministry of Defence was considering producing a military version of. For the manufacturer, it would have been a useful extension of the plane's life after most civilian orders had been fulfilled. As was the way of these things, specifications changed and negotiations were held up by changes of government. Finally, when the design was finalised and the Treasury squared, the MoD went back to the manufacturer only to be told: "We got tired of waiting for a decision. We have scrapped the jigs and tools because they were taking up valuable space."

The assumption that our counter-party would automatically fall in with our wishes has bedevilled the UK's conduct of negotiations over Brexit. Even after it became clear that the 27 would not automatically give us the same rights as we had in the EU without the responsibilities, our ill-equipped representatives expected the 27 to provide an alternative deal which was almost as good. Even now, the self-delusion persists. Parliament has mandated the prime minister to apply for a further extension to our withdrawal date, oblivious to the feelings of our European partners, and with no clear forward plan. It is not surprising that France's patience has finally snapped. It is more than likely that other nations' governments are feeling the same way but are keeping diplomatically quiet. Those most affected on the continent now have arrangements in place should the UK crash out at Halloween. They will regret the break, but the time must have arrived when they can stand the uncertainty no longer.

It takes only one nation out of the 27 to veto an extension.  Unless we can guarantee to use that extended period for a further referendum or a general election, our chances of avoiding a disastrous withdrawal are no better than evens.

Friday, 6 September 2019

"No Liberal"

The late Miles Kington was famous for spoof letters to the editor praising the unlikely contribution to the game of cricket by recently deceased international figures. In the case of Robert Mugabe, life imitated art, because the late dictator really did love cricket, one of his few redeeming features. His sponsorship of the game in Zimbabwe must have eased the transition of the national team from being whites-only to a genuinely multicultural outfit.

David Steel met Robert Mugabe quite early in the latter's career, before Mugabe had become well-known on the international stage and almost certainly before the ceremony described in this article took place. He is said to have reported back with the succinct description: "no liberal".

That was amply proved in later years. Sadly, it took too long for the international community to recognise Mugabe's tyrranical nature. The mantle of the great liberator still clung to him, deceiving even the Americans for a time.

Mugabe had cause to feel bitter at being imprisoned for too long by the Smith regime in what was then Rhodesia, including not being allowed to attend the funeral of his son. There may be a grain of truth in his assertion that at the Lancaster House talks on independence, the new majority government had been given oral assurances that Britain would contribute to buying out white settlers' land for redistribution. Even if that were a promise broken, it does not excuse the violence against the latter and even less so that against his own people.

Thursday, 5 September 2019

Not unexpected, and there will be more

Image may contain: text
Sign on a cafe window in Fort William at the beginning of the week

Thanks to Richard Baxter for the picture.

It is not Iran's nuclear potential which worries me

It is Constitution Day in Iran. Naturally, Israel's prime minister could not let it pass without an unneighbourly contribution.

Most public discussion centres on Iran's producing more fissile material than she was allowed under the treaty which was unilaterally broken by Trump's USA. It seems to me that any nuclear weapon is a long way from refinement. Even if it is produced, it would be nullified by the nuclear bomb which Israel denies but everyone knows she possesses. No, the threat from Iran is immanent and presents a present danger. It is the contribution in money and weapons to terrorist organisations.

Why are talks with Iran not concentrating on this threat to peace?

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Johnson and Javid betray coalition

 - not to mention the many thousands who suffered as the Conservatives tightened the "austerity" screw after Cameron achieved complete control of government. Lib Dems pin their attack on the new government's fantastic spending plans on the improbability of achieving them under Brexit (see but it seems to me that in highlighting that "we will be able to continue to see low [interest] rates for a number of years", and promising tax cuts, he is at best relaxed about increased borrowing and at worst prepared to widen the fiscal deficit. This is the same thinking that caught out Gordon Brown and Ed Balls when the 2007/8 credit crunch hit the UK economy and our poorly-regulated financial services industry.

The chancellor's statement, minus the political point-scoring, is at

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Land (state) elections in Saxony and Brandenburg

Much has been made by the UK (and some other) media of the rise of the AfD (Germany's equivalent of UKIP) in the two eastern Länder of the federal republic which had elections last Sunday. Two points should be made:

  • The two main parties (the social democrat SDP in Brandenburg, conservative CDU in Saxony), though reduced in strength, remain in charge. Indeed, the AfD did not do quite as well as the pundits predicted;
  • The Greens, in an area of Germany where they have least expectations, also increased their representation. Indeed, they were the only other party (apart from the two seats gained by a Brandenburg local party) to do so. They look like forming part of a ruling coalition in at least one of the new parliaments.

The FDP, the nearest equivalent to the Liberal Democrats in Germany, expected to do badly and were hardly reassured by a slight increase in vote share.

Detailed analysis at and

Monday, 2 September 2019

GDPR: commerce, politics and your local society

The huge fines levied by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) on an airline and a hotel chain hit the headlines last month. The data breaches were serious and no doubt the officials felt that they at long last had punishment at their disposal which would fit the crime. The culprits are large, though, and even if the fines can not be met wholly by contingency funds, one wonders how swiftly they will be recouped through a pound extra here or there on customer prices. For that reason, are they a real punishment and deterrent? It was noticeable that when the US Federal Trade Commission levied a multi-billion dollar fine on Facebook in July for its part in the Cambridge Analytica data misuse scandal, Facebook's share price actually rose, showing that the markets had reckoned how the multi-national giant could take the fine in its stride.

One path to rectitude was suggested by a contributor to last week's Unreliable Evidence, in respect of corporations below the behemoth level at least. In view of the increased size of fines, companies would clearly need to take out insurance against data breaches. The specialist insurers would be able to tailor their premiums - or refuse the risk - depending on the security measures in force, much as general insurers do with household insurance. Reducing one of the overheads would he a great incentive to companies to take a less cavalier attitude to their customers' personal details.

That radio programme was a valuable overview of the law on data protection, featuring as it did not only practitioners in the field but also a specialist journalist. The impact of the EU's General Data Protection Regulation on companies and its benefits for the ordinary citizen were discussed. What, sadly, the contributors did not have time for was an examination of the effects of this mighty legislation on smaller organisations, clubs and societies which need to maintain a membership list and probably some personal information on each member. GDPR bears particularly hard on political parties. The general public probably does not realise how much even the major parties depend on their local branches and affiliates and the information about voting habits they have built up over the years. GDPR dictates that people must give explicit permission for that information to be retained, in whatever form. Hence local secretaries and treasurers scurrying around with surveys followed by mass shredding of paper records as well as wiping disks on personal computers. The suspicion must be that many local parties are unwittingly committing an offence through forgetting about bundles of paper records or abandoned computers. Conversely, the big boys, Conservative Central Office and the like, have probably found ways of warehousing data and shielding it from the ICO.

Finally, there is a Brexit angle. Once out, the UK becomes a third country under EU law. Although GDPR legislation  will be maintained, it will be up to the institutions of the EU to decide whether the UK remains a safe country for data to be transferred to. The UK government's advice may be unduly optimistic.

Sunday, 1 September 2019

Britain on the brink of a coup

I am in respectable company when I see parallels between the UK's present situation and authoritarian takeovers in other countries and in other times. The respected veteran reporter Patrick Cockburn writes in The Independent and the i to the effect that: if you thought that a coup couldn't happen in Britain, think again. Cockburn is a man who, by the nature of his Middle Eastern beat, has seen more revolutions, violent or otherwise, than most.

The example he cites is, chillingly, not from the past nor from a nation with a recent history of civic turmoil. He writes:

What we are seeing is a very modern coup in which a demagogic nationalist populist authoritarian leader vaults into power through quasi-democratic means and makes sure that he cannot be removed.

This new method of seizing power has largely replaced the old-fashioned military coup d’etat in which soldiers and tanks captured headquarters and hubs in the capital and took over the TV and radio stations. Likely opponents were rounded up or fled the country. The military leaders sought popular passivity rather than vocal support.

I first witnessed the new type of coup in action three years ago in Turkey when it took place in reaction to an old-fashioned military coup. Part of the Turkish army tried to stage a military putsch on 15 July 2016 and provided the then prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan with what appeared to him to be a heaven-sent opportunity to install an elective dictatorship in which subsequent elections and the real distribution of power could be pre-determined by control of the media, judiciary, civil service, security services and, if people still stubbornly voted against the government, by outright electoral fraud.

He sees Brexit not as an end in itself, but a means to an end:

Less than a year after the failed military coup, Erdogan held a blatantly rigged referendum which marginalised parliament and gave him dictatorial powers. Despite the harassment and silencing of critics, it passed by only 51.4 per cent in favour of these constitutional changes as opposed to 48.6 per cent against. Even this narrow majority was only achieved late on election night when the head of the electoral board overseeing the election decided that votes not stamped as legally valid, numbering as many as 1.5 million, would be counted as valid, quite contrary to practice in previous Turkish elections.

By the day of the referendum in 2017, some 145,000 people had been detained, 134,000 sacked, and 150 media outlets closed. No act of persecution was too petty or cruel: one opposition MP, who denounced the “yes” vote, found that his 88-year-old mother had been discharged by way of retaliation from a hospital where she had been under treatment for two-and-a-half years.

Turkish elections are not a complete farce as in Egypt and Syria, as was shown by the election of an opposition candidate as mayor of Istanbul earlier this year. But the political process as a whole is now so skewed towards Erdogan that it will be extraordinarily difficult to dislodge him. This is a feature of the 21st-century type coup: once in office, leaders are proving more difficult to evict than a junta of military officers a century earlier.

Could the same thing happen here in Britain? This is one of the strengths of the Johnson coup: many people cannot believe that it has happened. British exceptionalism means that foreign experience is not relevant. Few knew or cared that Turkey had a strong tradition of parliamentary democracy as well as a grim record of military takeovers. But it is these slow-burn civilian coups which are such a feature of the modern world that we should be looking at – and trying to learn from – and not what happened in Britain in the 1630s when Charles I sought to impose arbitrary government.

One can see the excuse for a Cummings-Johnson putsch not in the form of a perceived military coup (nobody is going to believe that of our relatively liberal top brass) but as a likely election win by Labour led by Jeremy Corbyn, who now cannot shake off the image created in the minds of Middle England thanks to the Mail, Express, Sun and to some extent the BBC as a Jew-hating, terrorist-loving monster who will seize any opportunity to reduce Britain to the same state as Venezuela.

Will the courts come to our aid? Not if all but the most regime-friendly judges are in gaol. The softening-up process, of persuading people that judges are the enemies of the people, has begun by senior politicians, even Labour ones, and continued by the likes of the Daily Mail.