Question Time 22th October 2020
Nicky Morgan (Conservative)
Bridget Phillipson (Labour)
Anne Longfield (Children’s Commissioner)
Stephen Fitzpatrick (Businessman)
Joseph Stiglitz (Ecconomist)
Question Time continues to struggle to find its bearings in black history month with no black people on the panel yet again. So far this month, out of the 21 panellists, only one has been black (Donna Kinnear). In the interests of equality and diversity, all members of this week’s panel are white, three of them went to Oxford and three of them enjoyed a selective education.
I am indebted to an unread commenter who notes the importance of family, particularly that of friends of QT Review Yanis Varoufakis and his wife, whose parents indulged Yanis’s nutty politics and his wife’s even nuttier ‘art’. Further investigation shows that their parents were big in steel and textiles respectively. Although both family businesses have floundered, the family’s private wealth, as private wealth often does, has remained intact.
Therefore, we begin this week’s QT Review with a genealogy lesson. Bear with me. At the end of last week’s review, we concluded that:
“An elite of wealthy individuals, big government, big ‘philanthropy’ and big business, very often paid for out of your taxes, lords it over us…”
I wonder …….
Jacques Schifferin was born in Baku in 1892, then part of the Russian Empire. He fled to Paris when the Communists came to power. There, he founded ‘Les Éditions de la Pléiade’ which published affordable literary classics as well as contemporary writers. After Vichy France passed its anti-Jewish laws, Schifferin fled again, this time to New York where he founded Pantheon books alongside Kurt Wolf. According to his biographer, Amos Reichman,
He helped define a lasting canon of Western literature while also promoting new authors who shaped transatlantic intellectual life.
Did someone mention wartime France? Listen very carefully I will say this only once. Jack’s son, Andre, continued in publishing and had two daughters, interestingly given Russian names, Anya and Natalia. Anya is an author and journalist and director of technology, media and communications specialisation at the School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University. She is also a member of George Soros’s Open Society Foundation global board and was a member of the sub-board of George Soros’s Open Society Foundation’s Program on Independent Journalism. Incidentally, why does international journalism need to be overseen by a George Soros board?
Anya is married to tonight’s panellist, Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, whose appointments and awards are too numerous and too Ruritanain to list. And we used to laugh at Bob Peston.
Anya’s sister, Natalia, is married to the overbearingly smug, leftie ‘international human rights’ lawyer and trouble maker, the irritating Philippe Sands. Sands’ achievements include setting up the Matrix legal chambers with Cherrie Blair. Cherrie’s husband, Anthony Charles Lynton Blair, was QT venue Sedgefield’s MP for 24 years. A barrister, Sands has made his name, and his money, through the international courts. He is also an author and broadcaster and has written extensively of his family’s historical connection to Lviv in modern-day Ukraine (which old people like your humble author recall as Lvov in the USSR).
Sands somewhat overstates his contribution to international law and, upon closer inspection, has presided over Gambians arguing over a hillside of goats, and the Chinese and Philippinos squabbling over a bucket of fish. In a 2016 interview with the Guardian, Sands expanded his brief,
“Law is politics, politics is law,” he says. “The law is there but there’s always wiggle room, and the way you apply the law will be informed by the baggage you bring to the courtroom. It’s not a mechanical application. The wiggle room might be very limited, but there will always be some, and the individual steps into that space.”
Which raises an important question, should ‘wriggle room’ in the law be used for political partiality or should the law remain politically neutral? Your humble author would add a secondary observation, how popular are politically biased lawyers likely to become? One recalls the ‘Enemy of the People’ headlines after the Supreme Court’s judgements on Brexit.
Human rights and international human rights legislation have also been used to make the Armed Forces lives difficult and individual soldiers lives an absolute misery. Amongst others, one thinks of soldier F in Londonderry and Sergeant Blackman in Afghanistan. An acquaintance of QT Review, Sinn Fein IRA staff lawyer Pat Finance is now regularly referred to as a ‘human rights lawyer’. For those in the know, another bad advertisement for the human rights brand.
This manipulation of the law for a sectarian purpose doesn’t happen in a vacuum, as Sands family members discovered in war-time occupied Ukraine. Sands claims to be the latest in a line of lawyers with their origins in Lvov and the villages nearby. Hersch Lauterpacht who ‘presaged the foundations of today’s international legal order’ lived in the same village street as Sand’s mother’s family.
That village was Zhovkvo (or Zolkiew), whose synagogue remains standing, albeit semi-derelict and fortified. Before Len McClusky gets too excited (and bearing in mind your humble reviewer’s Ukrainian is rather rusty), the graffiti on the steel fences appears to say, ‘no parking, building for rent’. Not directions to where the gold is hidden, Len.
A similar wreck of a synagogue is at Golovanevsk, in which 900 Jews were massacred in 1941. Puffins with a strong stomach might look at what happened to their memorial this time last year. Fortunately, tonight’s QT venue of Sedgefield is a long way from the toxic, ethnically charged and corrupt politics of The Ukraine, a territory that no Western politician is bent enough or stupid enough to become involved with. Oh. Ah.
We can sneer at Lenin McCommunist’s clumsy references to ancient hatreds but Sands himself isn’t immune to inappropriate tropes. In interview with Anna Reid, while plugging a book at the Ukrainian Institute in London, Sands threw in a few tribal observations of his own,
“One of my two own counties, ie the United Kingdom, has done nothing to commemorate its own horror, we don’t have a museum of colonialism, we don’t have a museum of slavery.”
Later on, he drew an equivalence between what Hitler did, what Stalin did and “what the British did in their colonies.” In subsequent interviews, he has regularly compared Trump to Hitler.
That’s what they think of us.
Question one. Why’s it taken the chancellor so long? To which Bruce added, “why has it taken so long, the big row with Manchester was on Tuesday,” she wept. Tuesday was the day before yesterday, Fiona, give them a chance.
Bridget Phillipson (Labour) read out what she could remember of her briefing notes which was a boring list of predictable party political point-scoring. Bridgit is the MP for Houghton and Sunderland South. A graduate in Modern History from Oxford University, she is nondescript and has a badly faked pretend northern accent which faded to very posh during the programme. She has a head like an outtake from a Wallace and Gromit cartoon and always appears on QT in the studio in London rather than from her constituency.
Stephen Fitzpatrick (Businessman) set off by plugging his business, OVO Energy, but went on to say that he was impressed by how quickly the coronavirus response had moved, given how big an organisation the Government is. Stephen is a Northern Irish grammar schoolboy who graduated from Edinburgh University before working in corporate finance in London and then starting his own businesses. The guff that comes with Question Time informs us that Stephen is the founder of OVO Energy, has owned a Formula 1 racing team and is working on electric aircraft technology.
OVO Energy is an energy supply company. Energy supply companies buy electricity from the generators, at wholesale prices, and sell it to you and me at retail prices. It is a highly competitive industry, margins are wafer-thin. Smaller companies such as OVO are not helped by the presence of a Big Six of energy suppliers (such as EDF and British Gas). The reason energy is so expensive is not because of a lack of competition but because the sector is heavily taxed and heavily regulated, with the generators being forced to produce electricity from very expensive sources such as wind, nuclear and imported biomass.
In the most recent submissions available, the year to December 31st 2018, OVO made a loss of £45,000,000. Since then it has purchased the retail arm of SSE for £500m. In utility provision retail, there is not much in the way of nuts and bolts. OVO has brought little more than the customers, customers who have to be hung on to in a competitive market place.
Recently, the financing of OVO has been shuffled about, with the SSE subsidiaries being 75% owned by GLAS Trust Corporation. Formerly known as Global Loan Services Nominees, GLAS specialises in “restructuring and special situations.” Make of that what you will. Mitsubishi have also taken a 20% stake in OVO.
Another part of the business is Kazula. The techno gobbledygook and green bollocks are out of control on the Kazula website, which makes it very difficult to understand what they actually do. My best guess is that they install ‘smart’ meters and electric car chargers, manufactured elsewhere. i.e. a glorified plumbing business.
As for the Formula 1 team, the QT guff omits to mention that Fitzgerald’s team, Manor Racing, crashed (financially not literally, Puffins will be revealed to hear) having lost £28m and having gained only one point, a tenth place in the 2016 Austrian Grand Prix. Another “special situation”. Which leaves us with ‘electric aircraft technology’. The company is called Vertical Aerospace and loses millions every year as it tries to develop an electric helicopter. Is there any substance to Stephen Fitzgerald’s business acumen? Or does he just have the gift of the gab? We shall see.
Joseph Stiglitz (Nobel prize-winning economist) was on the line from America. Dressed in white, the background was all white as well. Is he Skyping from the White House? From the other side of the world, Jo knows all about us. It was unconscionable, he stated, but a model of good behaviour compared to the United States. Bruce began to dribble, “In what way?” she demanded, fishing for a kicking to be delivered to Donald Trump. Jo preferred to mention employment insurance and the jobless losing their health insurance. He didn’t mention Trump. He blamed the banks. The money went to the better connected. Somebody out there is better connected than Jo? Wow. Nope, he didn’t mention Trump at all.
Nicky Moragn (Conservative) understood. “Do ministers know? Yes.” She was looking for a balance which was a huge task. Hospitality. I had no idea what she was on about. The Right Honourable Nicola Ann Morgan, Baroness Morgan of Cotes, is a privately educated member of the House of Lords and an Oxford graduate. Her husband, Jonathan, is Conservative leader of Charnwood council, near Loughborough. In August The Times speculated that Baroness Morgan might be the next chair of the BBC.
Anne Longfield OBE (Children’s Commissioner) had spotted a pinball machine. Mature, calm discussion was required. A need for trust. Transparency. Can these people not talk in sentences? They do make it difficult for members of the reviewing community. Anne was educated at grammar school and then at Newcastle University, from where she graduated in history. She worked for 4children and its predecessors for 21 years, rising to be chief executive. During her tenure, 4children expanded, became indebted, over traded, lost money, built up more debts and crashed in a heap. 4children was in the ‘out of school schemes’ business and was responsible for delivering some of the then government’s ‘Sure Start’ programme. In 2015, Anne sailed away from the wreckage to become Children’s Commissioner for England, leaving her successor to sort out the mess. During the final years of 4children’s demise, Anne was receiving a six-figure salary.
The second question came from Suzie. Suzie wrote to her MP regularly but was thinking about writing to Andy Burnham instead.
Stephen thought our country to be diverse and not all of the people are properly represented. “We’re not good at listening to people who we don’t agree with,” he said before referring to his native Northern Ireland in the 1980s and 1990s. He’d felt a unity in March but six months later that had faded, which made him nervous. A grown-up, collegiate partnership from our leaders was required, Paisley and MacGuinness had managed it.
“The government has lost control the virus,” decided Bridgit, ignoring the grown-up and collegiate and trying to score points instead. A proper northern accent was provided by audience member Irene. The sentiment was distinctive too. “Boris has done a marvellous job, I despair if labour were in charge.” Back to Jo at the Whitehouse. He mentioned national leadership, but not Trump. What’s he frightened of? Oh, The Donald’s in the Whitehouse too, just off-camera, with a red hot poker in his hand. Jo criticised our national leadership, forgetting to remind us that previously he’d endorsed Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party.
Nicky got back to Burnham, the other mayors had behaved better. “Rolling regional lockdowns, if that is what is needed.” We are getting closer to a sentence. Anne agreed with Andy, he represented the real needs of the people of Manchester, she decided from London. The end of the talks were unseemly and had filled the airwaves. She objected to point-scoring.
The next question regarded friend of Question Time Review Marcus Rashford and the issue of free school meals during holidays. Anne gushed over Marcus. He brings that personal experience. Does he? He doesn’t get enough to eat? Has she bought a pair of his black history month football boots? I think she might have. Then she said a strange thing. Kids aren’t like pets, you don’t have to look after them, we’ve moved beyond that. I want government…… Dear God. No, we don’t want the Government, we want responsible parents to look after their own children and the Government to sod off. Somebody mentioned the MP’s pay rise but Bruce told them to shut up and go away. Has she had a pay rise recently? Oh yes, an 85% increase for doing less work.
Stephen Fitzgerald gushed over Marcus too and then over Jacinda Arden, the recently re-elected New Zealand prime minister. Incidentally, Arden’s widely reported ‘landslide’ gives her a majority of 8.
Bridget melted over Marcus. For part of the time, when she was small, she’d been on free school meals. What a waste of good food. She should have been left to starve to death and the food better used by being force-fed to the school’s gerbils and rabbits until they exploded.
Jo mentioned that free lunch programmes had continued in New York schools. A child that doesn’t get food can be scarred for life. Children should have adequate nutrition. The man’s a genius. Not only was he never mentioning Trump, he wasn’t even mentioning economics either. What was the point of having him on the programme? How hell does he get to be a Nobel prize winner, and lead the IMF? Are these positions nothing more than a revolving door for the aforementioned elitists?
Nicky Morgan was less enthusiastic. Money had been put in but targeted at those in most need.
Ann continued that feeding the children was fundamental and that politics should be secondary. Extra money had been put in which Anne thought made it strange that even more wasn’t being spent. Spot the public sector wallah.
The next question was, “Are we all going to follow the rules? They seem to change every few minutes?” By now I’d lost interest and was about to give up but Irene was back. She was sat in a big kitchen. She has a big house and garden, lived on her own and needed help. Was she touting for something? Is there a Puffin out there man enough to track and trace and lock her down?
The final question was from Carol and it was about a no-deal Brexit. Is there a Nobel prize-winning economist in the house? There’s a slowdown, said Sherlock. We have a pandemic. Pass the man another award. Stephen plugged his businesses, Brexit isn’t in the top ten things he worries about. I believe him, as above, I’ve seen his accounts! Anne mentioned uncertainty, like it or not Brexit is going to happen. Bridget sincerely hoped there would be a deal, jobs depended on it way, way, way up there in her constituency. Morgan would have preferred to have left the EU completely on the 31st January and to have avoided any extensions. Get on with it. It’s a waste of time. She has a point, I’m off to bed.
© Always Worth Saying 2020
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file