IN AND amongst all of last week’s confected outrage in the House of Commons, I feared we might witness yet another tragic passing of a local Labour MP.
Despite only being based a few miles up the Calder, Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman has never had much use for his neighbouring constituencies in Dewsbury or Batley & Spen.
He’s never had to, what with Labour cabals under John Harman, Mehboob Khan, David Sheard and now Shabir Pandor ensuring South Kirklees gets the lions’ share of everything going in this local authority, with Barry vicariously milking the Huddersfield benefits.
Sheerman has ridden the easiest of Parliamentary seats for a full 40 years, which is why he looks so remarkably well for his age at 79. That’s a benefit of not having to actually work for a cosy living.
But when he ripped into Attorney General Geoffrey Cox last week, the old purple-faced passenger almost had a thrombo. He went puce (see photo), he shook with rage, and I thought the old duffer’s ticker was bound to give up the ghost. Sheerman even looked as though he meant his fist-clenching fury – though MPs these days all make a good fist of their ham-acting.
Let me take you briefly back to earlier in this melodrama when Tory defector Anna Soubry was harassed (with police protection present, mind) and the tragic Jo Cox flag was predictably unfurled and waved mightily – as indeed it was in that same Sheerman episode by Paula Sherriff (almost matching his rage) and Tracy Brabin (much more measured – but then she is a pro).
I haven’t an issue with that, by the way. Thomas Mair’s murdering of a small, defenceless woman was horrific and its stain will forever be on Parliament’s breast. It should never be forgotten nor its lessons left unlearned.
But I will say those lessons have to be in the round, and not cynically manipulated to suit an agenda of either party political or gender motives.
Three women and two men – one an MP – were killed and 31 injured by the IRA’s bombing of a Conservative conference hotel in Brighton in 1984.
Yet just two weeks later Jeremy Corbyn invited two convicted IRA supporters into the House of Commons, which says far more about the Labour leader’s allegiances than any evasive TV interview. And on the subjects of the IRA, PLO, Hamas, Hizbollah etc, they always are evasive.
Does that sit comfortably with you, Paula and Tracy? That you meekly serve a man who privately, likely considers British troops as state terrorists, but Palestinian or IRA killers as freedom fighters?
In that light, I think Boris Johnson using ‘harsh’ language by describing this Remain Parliament’s passing of what he termed ‘the Surrender Act’ is hardly toxic, is it?
You need to be careful how casually you invoke Jo Cox’s memory, ladies, and you and your colleagues need to bear in mind how serious your betrayals of voters are seen.
Glib deceits and evasions, whether they be in the House of Commons or Batley Irish Nash, don’t wash as smoothly over an angry public as they do their fellow performers in Westminster.
People feel betrayed and MPs who continue to insult their intelligence should realise this is the real world, not Commons am-dram.
Let me return to that awful day when Jo Cox was murdered. The previous week she had used her newspaper column to make a passionate plea on behalf of all things Remain. She had every right to. The referendum was near and she was making her case.
When we heard she’d been killed we scrapped a page of letters expressing furious indignation at her views. We already had two-and-a-half pages of widely ranging, referendum-based letters, but printing all of those taking issue with the MP would have been in terrible taste.
No one could imagine that a deranged loner might be provoked to act as he did, or guess what tipped Mair over the edge – only a copy of something written by Mrs Cox in another newspaper was found in his house.
Back to last week and MPs Brabin and Sherriff blasting Boris Johnson for saying “humbug” and that the best way to honour Jo Cox’s memory was to deliver Brexit. It was stressed how Remain-committed she was – although that is not the point.
Were they saying that she, like them, would have broken promises, defied democracy? Or would Mrs Cox, as perhaps a more honourable Member, have abided by the vote?
We will tragically never know, but MPs must appreciate that ‘outraged’ words can have outrageous consequences. Their playground cat-calling is heard far beyond their green benches and civility works both ways.
I’M not sure Prince Harry quite ‘gets’ the soap opera he’s now trapped in. I’d hazard that his wife almost certainly does.
His sweeping attack on the British press this week was ill judged, at least in light of the masses of favourable PR they deliver he and Meghan as they jet around the world on their self-anointed mission to save the world, like grown-up Greta Thunbergs.
Sueing the Mail on Sunday for printing a private letter was absolutely the right thing for the Sussexes to do. I suspect the editor will have sleepless nights ahead – but it wasn’t every newspaper that printed it and I fear Harry jumped too hastily into ‘remember my tragic mum Diana!’ mode.
I also sense Meghan didn’t leave her Hollywood celebrity at home when they married; she just topped it up with some Royal glitz. Make her a triple-A celeb like Grace Kelly – Princess Grace of Monaco. In Royal family terms, a Kate Middleton, she surely isn’t.
A spell out of the incessant limelight wouldn’t hurt, especially with their young family. But it wouldn’t be a surprise if they didn’t decamp to California sooner rather than later, where Meghan’s status would be stratospheric.
How would Harry cope with that? I think we would all wish the Prince a well-deserved happy-ever-after. But I can’t say I’m confident.
THEY really don’t get it, do they?
‘They’ rage at the referendum vote, at the USA electing Donald Trump, at the rise of people’s parties across Europe, and ‘they’ are ever more furious at the sheer stupid impudence of ordinary people.
“Right-wing, fascist, bigot, morons”, to paraphrase most of the UK and EU establishment. And the louder and more fanatically ‘they’ rage, the higher their hate-figures rise in public opinion.
I don’t know if Boris Johnson grabbed a female journalist’s thigh 20 years ago. When quizzed I’m half surprised he didn’t reply “which female journalist in particular?” given his reputation (and excuse me folks, but he has got a face like a slapped backside, hasn’t he?)
I have no reason to doubt Charlotte Edwardes’ memory of the alleged incident at a private dinner. What I would ask is why she didn’t slap his face – or repay the ‘compliment’ by giving his meat-and-two an eye-watering squeeze.
In her defence, the #MeToo age still wasn’t upon us, and Johnson was the editor of a magazine the young journalist wrote for, so perhaps her reticence was understandable.
But 20 years? Staying silent during Johnson’s long ascent through politics, all the way to No.10? We’ve had years of whistleblowers, so why did Ms Edwardes wait until now?
I suppose a cynic would say it made for a great launch to her new career at The Sunday Times – although I should add she is a very highly regarded journalist. But still, Boris thunders on, soaring in the public polls. More scandals please, he’ll govern for a decade at this rate!