If I were Tory leader and other matters

Goldsmith, the Greens, Miss World, Water Wars plus if one was given the opportunity to rule...

What do you think of Miss World? Is it a bit of a joke? A relic from the sexist past? Or something that enforces a negative stereotype of women? With contestants due to don their bikinis in China this weekend we asked Bea Campbell and Ruth Lea to debate Miss World. Have a read and then why not add your thoughts?

This week we've also had an article on British citizenship. Lord Goldsmith has been asked by Gordon Brown to conduct a review of the issue which will report next March. Writing exclusively for newstatesman.com the ex-attorney general argued diversity needs to combine with a shared sense of belonging.

The Green Party's Caroline Lucas meanwhile hailed a UN report and issued a warning that when it comes to climate change we've got just 10 years.

Professor Liz Kelly revealed some horrific truths about the postcode lottery women face when they seek support in the wake of rape or domestic violence.

Have a look at her article to find the link to the Map of the Gaps.

And Fred Pearce, in association with the World Development Movement (WDM), provided us with a fascinating article on the danger posed to humanity by Water Wars.

Incidentally, look out next week as we work with the WDM to bring you coverage of the Bali conference.

And don't forget Martin Bright's blog for regular updates about the Labour donor crisis

Now turning to other matters...

The other day my wife woke and told me she'd dreamt I'd just been elected Tory leader and, I can't lie, it got me thinking...

Like my predecessors, I would take election as a given - the Conservatives are, after all, the natural party of government and it is a right, not a privilege, to serve.

I'd re-open all the mines just to shut them down again, destroying whole communities then abandoning them to their fate. There's nothing like a little adversity to bring out the spirit of the Blitz.

The nation could indulge in an expensive but unnecessary round of arms buying bolstering our existing reputation as a great country: Falklands + Gibraltar = an empire, as I always say.

Incentives would be put back into some workplaces - I'm particularly thinking of the Square Mile - including the legalisation of tax evasion for those earning more than £120,000 a year - they work hard, so why should the state steal from them?

I'd ban Ken Livingstone, again.

When things begin to pear-shaped with the economy, as they surely will, I'd embark on a round of tax cuts the country can ill afford.

Obviously interest rates would be ratchetted up to 15% in a bid to tackle the aforementioned the effects of my reckless tax cuts and to punish people who have bought property with a mortgage rather than inherited it. Here there would be the additional benefit of rewarding savers or 'legatees'.

Introduce systemic unemployment of no less than 3 million helping to drive down the wages of the wider workforce. All the evidence I'm prepared to listen to suggests poverty pay drives up productivity.

Privatise social services, abolish the NHS, increase illiteracy and ban Scottish and Welsh MPs from voting. At all.

Bring back hanging.

Now there's a programme all Tories can really get behind. You wouldn't catch me hugging a husky, cycling in front of a large Lexus 4x4 or walking unsteadily on the moral high ground. Oh no.

Ben Davies trained as a journalist after taking most of the 1990s off. Prior to joining the New Statesman he spent five years working as a politics reporter for the BBC News website. He lives in North London.
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Daniel Hannan harks back to the days of empire - the Angevin Empire

Did the benign rule of some 12th century English kings make western France vote Macron over Le Pen?

I know a fair amount about British politics; I know a passable amount about American politics, too. But, as with so many of my fellow Britons, in the world beyond that, I’m lost.

So how are we, the monolingual Anglophone opinionators of the world, meant to interpret a presidential election in a country where everyone is rude enough to conduct all their politics in French?

Luckily, here’s Daniel Hannan to help us:

I suppose we always knew Dan still got a bit misty eyed at the notion of the empire. I just always thought it was the British Empire, not the Angevin one, that tugged his heartstrings so.

So what exactly are we to make of this po-faced, historically illiterate, geographically illiterate, quite fantastically stupid, most Hannan-y Hannan tweet of all time?

One possibility is that this was meant as a serious observation. Dan is genuinely saying that the parts of western France ruled by Henry II and sons in the 12th century – Brittany, Normandy, Anjou, Poitou, Aquitaine – remain more moderate than those to the east, which were never graced with the touch of English greatness. This, he is suggesting, is why they generally voted for Emmanuel Macron over Marine Le Pen.

There are a number of problems with this theory. The first is that it’s bollocks. Western France was never part of England – it remained, indeed, a part of a weakened kingdom of France. In some ways it would be more accurate to say that what really happened in 1154 was that some mid-ranking French nobles happened to inherit the English Crown.

Even if you buy the idea that England is the source of all ancient liberties (no), western France is unlikely to share its political culture, because it was never a part of the same polity: the two lands just happened to share a landlord for a while.

As it happens, they didn’t even share it for very long. By 1215, Henry’s youngest son John had done a pretty good job of losing all his territories in France, so that was the end of the Angevins. The English crown reconquered  various bits of France over the next couple of centuries, but, as you may have noticed, it hasn’t been much of a force there for some time now.

At any rate: while I know very little of French politics, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess the similarities between yesterday's electoral map and the Angevin Empire were a coincidence. I'm fairly confident that there have been other factors which have probably done more to shape the French political map than a personal empire that survived for the length of one not particularly long human life time 800 years ago. Some wars. Industrialisation. The odd revolution. You know the sort of thing.

If Daniel Hannan sucks at history, though, he also sucks at geography, since chunks of territory which owed fealty to the English crown actually voted Le Pen. These include western Normandy; they also include Calais, which remained English territory for much longer than any other part of France. This seems rather to knacker Hannan’s thesis.

So: that’s one possibility, that all this was an attempt to make serious point; but, Hannan being Hannan, it just happened to be a quite fantastically stupid one.

The other possibility is that he’s taking the piss. It’s genuinely difficult to know.

Either way, he instantly deleted the tweet. Because he realised we didn’t get the joke? Because he got two words the wrong way round? Because he realised he didn’t know where Calais was?

We’ll never know for sure. I’d ask him but, y’know, blocked.

UPDATE: Breaking news from the frontline of the internet: 

It. Was. A. Joke.

My god. He jokes. He makes light. He has a sense of fun.

This changes everything. I need to rethink my entire world view. What if... what if I've been wrong, all this time? What if Daniel Hannan is in fact one of the great, unappreciated comic voices of our time? What if I'm simply not in on the joke?

What if... what if Brexit is actually... good?

Daniel, if you're reading this – and let's be honest, you are definitely reading this – I am so sorry. I've been misunderstanding you all this time.

I owe you a pint (568.26 millilitres).

Serious offer, by the way.

 

Jonn Elledge edits the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric, and writes for the NS about subjects including politics, history and Daniel Hannan. You can find him on Twitter or Facebook.

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