The idiocy of Jonathan May-Bowles

There will be yet more "security" at the House of Commons.

Yesterday an idiot made it worse for many other people, and without any gain for anyone but "security" officials. The "pie" gesture was not even funny on its own terms; and an attack on any eighty-year old man is that of either an imbecile or a bully. The immediate consequence was that all the public, many of whom had waited up to eight hours, were cleared from the committee room.

But there will perhaps be another longer-lasting effect. Those charged with security at the Houses of Parliament hardly need any more excuse to add to their grand theatre of anti-terrorism. When I first visited the Palace of Westminster in the late 1980s, there was relatively little security, even though there was the clear and present danger of Irish republican attacks. And once you were in, you could walk around reasonably freely.

Now, there is as much ceremony getting into Parliament as when the Queen actually opens it. There are queues, photographs, machine guns, elaborate bag-searches, and very serious faces. The uniformed officials seem to revel in taking even trivial items from frightened visitors and exercising their moment of power. By the time you get through all this you are highly conscious of the power of Parliament's officials, and also the lack of your own.

And thanks to the idiot Jonathan May-Bowles this will undoubtedly get worse. It may well be that the public will be excluded from certain hearings, or partitioned off. Those seeking to legitimately lobby their Members of Parliament will be subjected to more intense searches and, indeed, humiliations by "security" officials.

One has no idea what he was hoping to achieve with his stunt; but we can be fairly certain what "security" officials will try to achieve off the back of it.

Addendum

Jonathan May-Bowles has now set out his account of the incident here.

 

David Allen Green is legal correspondent of the New Statesman. He is the author of the Jack of Kent blog and can be followed on Twitter and on Facebook.

David Allen Green is legal correspondent of the New Statesman and author of the Jack of Kent blog.

His legal journalism has included popularising the Simon Singh libel case and discrediting the Julian Assange myths about his extradition case.  His uncovering of the Nightjack email hack by the Times was described as "masterly analysis" by Lord Justice Leveson.

David is also a solicitor and was successful in the "Twitterjoketrial" appeal at the High Court.

(Nothing on this blog constitutes legal advice.)

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Philip Hammond's house gaffe is a reminder of what the Tories lost when David Cameron left

The Chancellor of the Exchequer's blunder confirmed an old fear about the Conservative Party. 

Philip Hammond got into a spot of bother this morning describing the need for a transitional agreement with the European Union by comparing it to moving into a house, saying: "you don't necessarily move all your furniture in on the first day you buy it”.

This immediately surprised a lot of people, because for most people, you do, in fact, move all of your furniture in on the first day you buy a house. Or rent a house, or a flat, or whatever. Most people who buy houses are part of housing chains – that is, they sell their house to raise some of the capital to buy another one, or, if they are first-time buyers, they are moving from the private rented sector into a house or flat of their own.

They don’t, as a rule, have a spare bolthole for “all their furniture” to wait around in. Hammond’s analogy accidentally revealed two things – he is rich, and he owns more than one home. (I say “revealed”. Obviously these are things you can find out by checking the register of members’ interests, but they are, at least, things that are not immediately obvious hearing Hammond speak.)

That spoke to one major and recurring Conservative weakness: that people see them as a party solely for the rich. Focus groups conducted by BritainThinks consistently showed that when people were asked which group of TV families might vote Conservative, the only one that people consistently picked were the “posh couple” from GoggleBox.

David Cameron’s great achievement as Conservative leader was in winning two elections – the first, in 2010, the most successful night for the Conservatives since 1931, with 97 gains overall, the second, their first parliamentary majority for 23 years – despite being a graduate of Eton and Oxford leading a party that most voters fear will only look out for the rich.

He did it by consistently speaking and acting as if he were significantly less well-to-do than he was. Even his supposed 2013 gaffe when asked what the price of bread was – when he revealed that he preferred to use a breadmaker – projected a more down-to-earth image than his background suggested His preferred breadmaker cost a hundred quid and could easily have been found in any upper-middle class home in any part of his country. One of Cameron’s great successes was in presenting himself as an affable upper-middle-class dad to the nation, when he was in fact, well-to-do enough to employ a literal breadmaker had he so chosen.

This is slightly unfair on Philip Hammond who went to a state school in Essex and is by any measure less posh than Cameron. But his gaffe speaks to their big post Cameron problem (and indeed their big pre-Cameron problem) which is that while many conservative ideas are popular, the Conservative Party isn’t. Most of their big politicians are a turn-off, not a turn-on.

And until they can find a genuine replacement for David Cameron, miserable results like 2017 may become the norm, rather than the exception. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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