George Osborne is said to have paid £100 an hour to be trained by a Harley Street vocal specialist during his days as shadow Chancellor, to help him sound weighty and authoritative. But did he get his money’s worth? After listening to the Chancellor’s speech on Monday, the Labour MP Jamie Reed seemed to think not. He tweeted: “Can someone please reintroduce Osborne to ‘t’ as a consonant? Cos I godda dell ya, that speech made me wanna scream.”
Who will win the war?
The latest exchanges of hostilities between Michael Gove and Sir Tony Robinson, aka Baldrick, and between Boris Johnson and Labour’s Tristram Hunt, may be only the beginning of a year of politicians mining the Great War for reasons that you should vote for them and not for the other lot.
They are arguing over two separate questions: whether the war against Germany was just, and whether the British Army was well led – though the two seem to have come together as one in Mr Gove’s thinking. The Tory Deputy Chief Whip, Greg Hands, weighed in on the “just war” side of the argument, tweeting: “Labour’s new anti-Allied view of [The] Great War may go down badly with voters of Polish origin. Poland was re-born in 1918 thx to Allied victory.”
Does Mr Hands know that Jozef Pilsudski, the father of an independent Poland, raised an army of Polish volunteers in 1914 who fought for three years alongside the Germans against Russia? The Kaiser was even prevailed upon to give formal recognition to an independent Poland in 1916. The rebirth of Poland was a complex story. To suggest that independence was given to the Poles, gift-wrapped by the Entente, is a myopic rewriting of history.
James Wharton, Britain’s youngest Tory MP, is exploring new ways to hold on to his Stockton South seat, which he won by just 332 votes. He has taken up the cause of villagers in Yarm, a couple of miles south of Stockton-on-Tees, who are so incensed by a planning decision to permit 350 new homes in the town that they want to escape the clutches of Stockton Council.
Mr Wharton has surveyed the villagers, and found that 95 per cent of respondents want a boundary change that would transfer the village to North Yorkshire. Bob Cook, the leader of Stockton Council, is unimpressed. “James Wharton has got the wrong target,” he told the Stockton Gazette. “If James wants to track down those responsible for tying councils’ hands, then he should look no further than his own government. We have said time and again that flawed national planning policy is the chief culprit.”
The mother of all problems
Another Tory MP, the incomparable Jacob Rees-Mogg, also has a tricky planning issue in his constituency. Residents in Hinton Blewett, a hamlet mentioned in the Domesday Book, are fiercely contesting a proposal to build 19 new homes only yards outside the boundary of a conservation area, a development which they say would increase the size of the village by more than a fifth. Their MP is not in a good position to get involved. The contested site belongs to his mother, Lady Gillian, the widow of Baron Rees-Mogg of Hinton Blewett.